Democratic will of the people cannot be
By Bashdar Ismaeel,
longtime contributing writer for ekurd.net
February 27, 2010
There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the
right direction." Winston Churchill.
As a tense political climate ensues in Kurdistan
ahead of the critical Iraqi elections in March, the
notion of change and evolution must be embraced;
however, at this crucial historical juncture, the
Kurds must be careful to guide their region toward a
new dawn and not a tainted past.
Whilst democracy is a fledgling phenomenon in Iraq
and not without its fair share of deficiencies and
impediments, it is nevertheless a remarkable
milestone, and the Iraqi elections of March 7
provide a chance for millions of Iraqis to be heard.
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel, senior UK Editor
up to the people to voice their votes, but
ultimately up to the politicians to deliver.
Iraq faces a tense battle on many fronts as people
eagerly await electoral results. However, the notion
of "change" must surely be at the pinnacle of any
political manifesto if the next five years is to be
This change comes in a number of forms. Same foot
dragging over constitutional issues, budget and
resource sharing, lack of reconciliation, chauvinist
mentalities of the past, or a government who does
not want to truly embrace democratic values,
compromise and listen to the critical voice of the
very people they have been voted to serve, then Iraq
can be guaranteed one thing: The next five years
will be as unproductive, tiresome and problematic as
Without the need for a greater change on many
political levels, the same thorny issues put on ice
over the past five years such as resolving disputed
boundaries will lie in stalemate in five years'
time. Or worse still, without a flexible and
all-encompassing democratic apparatus, violent
resolution of these issues will occur.
New political horizon in
Remarkable progress on political, economic and
social levels has been made in less than two decades
since the liberation of Kurdistan. However,
Kurdistan now finds itself at a critical
crossroad--one that can truly propel it to a new
standing both within Iraq and the Middle East, or
one that will only induce echoes of past infighting,
disunity and bureaucratic governance.
The progress of the Change Movement or Gorran from
literally the backdoor to a major opposition as a
result of the Kurdistan parliamentary elections last
July--where it won a credible 25 seats or 23.57% of
the vote--speaks volumes.
The basis for this new political horizon is in
essence revealed in the name itself: Change. This
motion is reflected in the millions of Kurds who
demand changes to living standards, political reform
and more transparency.
However, change itself is a loose word. Whether
Gorran is a direct rival of the PUK only or is a
viable and effective alternative voice for all of
Kurdistan remains to be seen.
The onus is on Gorran to push through the very ideal
of change people have identified with them. This
means that the plan for change needs to be
structured, coordinated and implemented. The ruling
elite in the KDP and PUK may embrace a common desire
this change must be steared in the right direction
and for results that will bnefit the greater
Kurdistan region both internally and in Baghdad.
A new direction
A popular demand for change and the new political
competitiveness should not mean disunity and
crippling of Kurdish national interests. All Kurdish
politicians have been elected by Kurds to serve
There is nothing wrong with internal political
jostling or heated campaigning, but such a
destructive atmosphere in the form of media
campaigns, grave insults and accusations, harsh
exchange of words between leaders and violence
guarantees only one thing--a big smile on the face
of Kurdish adversaries.
Uncertainty of electoral
There is fierce political jockeying in Kurdistan
with more at stake than ever. The PUK dominance
particularly in Sulaimanyia and Kirkuk has been
challenged, and the national elections will only
reaffirm the views of the people.
With the new open-candidate list system serving to
potentially further influence the PUK power sharing
with KDP, there has been a lot of media coverage
around the "demise" of the PUK.
Talk of such a decline is premature, but one thing
is certain: Democracy practiced in a fair and just
way does not lie. The results are derived from the
opinions and choice of the people, and it is the
will and choice of such people that must be
protected and placed first.
This is the very essence of a healthy democracy and
facilitating change in the right direction. If the
bar has been raised as a result of the new political
climate in Kurdistan, then the onus is on the likes
of the KDP and PUK to raise the stakes, adopt reform
and change the minds of the people. Any political
system where politicians can rest on their laurels
only guarantees slow progress, corruption and lack
of services to the people.
By the same token, the Gorran movement becoming a
major force in Kurdistan is only a starting point.
There is no compulsion in a healthy democracy, and
just as easily as millions can vote for you,
millions can vote against you if their expectations
are not met or political promises are not fulfilled.
Kurdish role in Baghdad
Although Gorran and the Kurdistan Alliance will
effectively campaign on two separate lists in the
national elections, this does not mean it should be
to the detriment of Kurdistan.
The overall strategic goals of the Kurds must be
strengthened and not undermined as a result of the
new Kurdish political awakening.
This does mean that the Gorran can now use its
leverage to pressure the KDP and PUK into change or
to introduce elements of its philosophies, which is
only natural if you muster such a significant
portion of votes. However, this should not mean that
personal and political vendettas should see this new
climate turn into a Kurdish nightmare.
This is about the Kurdish people and Kurdistan not
supporting one group over another or turning this
into a social or dynasty battle in Kurdistan.
The Kurds will once again have a kingmaker role in
the next government, and their support for any
coalition in Baghdad must see Kurds attain firm
guarantees for their strategic goals in return.
Tense climate in Kurdistan
The recent heated debates and walkout in the Kurdish
Parliament, violent friction in the Sulaimanyia
province and the anger over the alleged labelling of
the Peshmerga forces by a Gorran MP as a militia
threatens to create a political and social divide in
Such divide in the '90s resulted in civil war and
effectively meant that two Kurdistan administrations
Status of Peshmerga forces
For Kurds, the word Peshmerga is etched in Kurdish
folklore. Without the sacrifices and bravery of the
thousands of such individuals who fought against
repression and occupation, Kurdistan would never be
where it is today.
Any labelling of the Peshmerga as a kind of militia
is not only disrespectful and out of tone of Kurdish
political standards and revered heritage, but will
undoubtedly incite Kurdish sentiments ahead of
elections. This is something we become accustomed to
hearing from Baghdad, whose view of the Peshmerga as
a militia is only to undermine the force and serve
to weaken an element they see as a direct threat.
However, by the same token, politicisation of the
forces should be discouraged at all costs. They
should be embraced as a national Kurdish army to
serve and protect all of Kurdistan. This is one
example of where political polarisation of Kurdistan
Uncertainty over the results of ballots and
political anxiety should be seen as a sign of a
healthy democracy. Politicians should fret over
their performance at the polls and not walk into
Parliament via a red carpet.
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance
writer and analyst,
contributing writer for ekurd.net website.
Ismaeel whose primary focus and
expertise is on the Kurds, Iraq and Middle Eastern
current affairs. The main focus of his writing is to
promote peace, justice and increase awareness of the
diversity, suffering and at times explosive mix in
Iraq and the Middle East.
Most recently he has produced work for the
Washington Examiner, Asian Times, The Epoch Times,
Asia News, The Daily Star (Lebanon), Kurdish Globe,
Hewler Post, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), KurdishMedia, PUK Online and OnlineOpinion.
He has achieved seminar recommended readings for Le
High University (Pennsylvania) and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. His work has been
republished extensively elsewhere on the Internet.
You may reach the author via email at: bashdar (at)
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