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 American expert expects electoral surprise in Erbil in Kurdistan elections

 Source :  Rudaw 
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American expert expects electoral surprise in Erbil in Kurdistan elections  25.7.2009 
By Hawar Abdulrezaq

July 25, 2009

Jerry Weinberger is Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University and an adjunct fellow of the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington D.C. He just returned from Kurdistan. For four months he was consulting for the American University of Iraq-Sulaimaniyah. He wrote a very critical piece on Kurdistan called ‘Kurdistan’s democracy deficit’ for the on 22 July.

The election of Kurdistan parliament will go ahead in 25th of July, do you think the strong parties like KDP and PUK will succeed or will the other lists be more competitive?

I think the combined list will win, but Change may do very well in Sulaimaniyah and even surprise in Erbil [Hawler]. It all depends on whether the election is fair and if the PUK-KDP list refrains from intimidation.                         

Jerry Weinberger
Nawshirwan Mustafa the former PUK official has a new list by the name of "Change" and is seen as a real opposition to the power of the Kurdistani list. Do you think they will be successful?

It depends on what is meant by success or failure. Change will not win the election. But it could win enough seats to become a serious parliamentary opposition.

What's U.S's official's opinion about this up coming election, and do they talk about it at all?

The U.S. wants a fair election; but it is unclear at this point what the US government is prepared to do to see that the election is fair. In general, Kurdish affairs do not get much attention in the U.S.

What do you think of the Islamic party's chances in this election?

I don't really know: but opposition parties will always benefit from the public perception of corruption and inefficiency in government. That perception is growing, especially in Sulaimaniyah.

Do you think the neighbouring countries have say in the election, in short do you think Iran, turkey and Syria are supporting or assisting the different lists?

Again, I don't really know. I would not be surprised at outside intervention from your neighbours. The issue of "Greater Kurdistan" is especially crucial to those neighbours.

Does Obama administration have a clear policy toward the Iraqi Kurds?

In my view the Obama administration is primarily interested in stability in the region. As between stability and vigorous and genuine democracy, it will choose stability.

There is a perception in Irbil that Obama's administration is more pro-Maliki and that they have neglected the Kurds, what do you think of this perception?

The U.S. has to consider its relations with Turkey in any assessments of its polity toward Kurdistan. The Kurds matter, but only in the larger scheme of regional stability.

What do the Kurds have to do to get closer to Obama's camp?

Be moderate on the issue of Kirkuk: the new draft constitution is not a good step in that direction.

What do you think of Kurdish lobby in Washington, are they active enough in working for Kurdish issues and make U.S public aware of Kurdish needs?

It is effective in presenting the PUK-KDP combined list: but not in reflecting the more complicated political situation in the PUK.

What do you think the future of Kirkuk will hold?

My guess is that the solution will be some form of negotiated "special status" for Kirkuk: but I don't have a crystal ball so it's anybody's guess.

What do you think of the recent conflict between Maliki and Iraqi leaders?

It doesn't bode well for the integrity and stability of Iraq. The great danger has always been federalism so loose that Iraq breaks up; the current move toward greater power in Baghdad has to be seen in that context, and the more general context of Turkish worry about "greater Kurdistan."

Jerry Weinberger is Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University. From 1997 until 2001 he was Chair of the Department of Political Science. He received his B.A. from The University of California at Berkeley in 1967 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1973. He won the Michigan State University Teacher-Scholar Award, has won fellowships from the Earhart Foundation and the Institute for Educational Affairs, and has twice been a Senior Research Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the Director of the LeFrak Forum and Co-Director of the Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy, both located in the Department of Political Science.

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