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 Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani says Kurds can replace him in six months

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Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani says Kurds can replace him in six months  15.2.2011  
By Nawzad Mahmoud

February 15, 2011

ERBIL/SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Although all the Kurdish political parties are making promises to maintain unity in dealing with Baghdad’s Arab parties over Kurdistan’s non-local affairs, they are witnessing their highest rift since the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Relations between the Gorran opposition movement and the ruling bloc – the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – were seriously damaged after the opposition party issued a statement in late January calling for major reforms and the dissolution of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and parliament.

The statement came amid the protests in Egypt and Tunisia that led to the overthrow of the governments in both countries.

“The political earthquake that happened in Tunisia, and later in Egypt, may prove to be the beginning of a radical change in the entire Middle East,” said Gorran’s leader, Nawshirwan Mustafa, on his party’s KNN television station Sunday, adding that it could extend to Iraqi Kurdistan as well.       

“This is not a place where you can say that the president, the parliament and the government are in power for ever,” said Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani. Photo: KRG
“The one-party system we have in Sulaimaniyah and Erbil will collapse,” added Mustafa, referring to the Kurdistan region’s two largest provinces where the PUK, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and the KDP, led by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, hold sway respectively.

Gorran’s revolutionary calls have not only infuriated the KDP and PUK, who have accused the opposition party of encouraging a coup against the “legitimate institutions” of Iraqi Kurdistan,
www.ekurd.netbut also have made the two ruling parties rethink their policies. The Kurdistan region has been experiencing a war of words between the ruling parties and the main opposition group ever since.

On Sunday, President Barzani called for reform in the parliament and government in regard to corruption and the lack of public services, emphasizing that the Kurdish government was democratic.

“This is not a place where you can say that the president, the parliament and the government are in power for ever,” said Barzani, addressing a conference on religious tolerance in the Kurdish capital, Erbil. “If you like, in two years’ time, [or] in six months’ time, call for elections, elect whoever you want and remove whoever you want.”

Despite the tensions within Kurdistan, officials from both ruling and opposition parties insist that they have not impacted on the unitary approach in regard to Baghdad-Kurdistan relations.

Bakir Hama Sdiq, a member of parliament from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), one of the smaller Kurdish opposition parties, said relations between Kurdish lawmakers are “fortunately normal and without problems,” and that the tensions in Kurdistan had not made their way to Baghdad.

He said handling the immense challenges that existed between Baghdad and the KRG was difficult, so it was necessary for Kurdish lawmakers in the Iraqi capital to have better relations with each other.

The tensions were especially high in Sulaimaniyah city, the location of the powerbases of both Gorran and the PUK. The city’s security forces, controlled by the PUK, deployed tanks around Gorran’s headquarters, further increasing tensions, but the tanks were removed after the news of their deployment made it to the media. Also, to protest against Gorran’s demands, PUK supporters took to the streets there.

However, there are attempts being made to soothe the tensions between Gorran and the Kurdish ruling parties, mainly Barzani’s KDP.

Ali Bapir, leader of the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), another opposition party, is playing the role of mediator between Barzani and Mustafa, who have never sat down together since the establishment of Gorran in 2009, according to Zana Rustai, a senior KIG official. “He has exchanged words between Kak Massoud and Kak Nawshirwan,” added Rustai, using a respectful Kurdish word of address for both men.

Some officials downplay the tensions between Gorran and the KDP.

Muayad Tayib, a KDP lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament, said he was happy because he believed his party’s relations with Gorran were normal and not affected by the tensions in Kurdistan.

However, he said his parliamentary bloc was abiding by the statement released by the ruling parties in Kurdistan and the presidency of the Kurdistan region.

“We have made it clear that comparing the situation in Kurdistan to Egypt and Tunisia is inappropriate,” said Tayib.

As a range of disputes between Baghdad and Kurdistan over issues such as territory and budget need to be settled, Kurdish lawmakers say they will work together to defend Kurdish interests in the Iraqi parliament.

Adel Abdullah, a PUK lawmaker, said the political environment was “different here in Baghdad and we cannot permit tensions among ourselves here, given the challenges that we are facing.”

He expressed hope that Kurdish lawmakers from all groups would continue their relations in a positive way.

Gorran has eight lawmakers in Baghdad, while the KDP-PUK dominated bloc has 58.

Saman Fawzi, another PUK lawmaker in Baghdad, said Kurdish lawmakers had refrained from speaking to the Arab media about the tensions between their parties back in Kurdistan.

“We have always said [to the Arab media] that these are our own problems and we will sort it out among ourselves,” said Fawzi during a Kurdish television broadcast.

But Abdullah, the PUK lawmaker, said cracks could appear within the Kurdish front in Baghdad if sensitive issues like oil and budget were discussed in parliament in the future.

The KIU’s Sdiq, however, insisted that the Kurdish parties in Baghdad were showing a good example.

“We drink tea in the cafeteria together,” he said. “If the same good relations we have here would prevail in the Kurdistan region then there would be no problem.”

Bayazid Hassan, a Gorran lawmaker, echoed Sdiq’s views saying the parties would “work together normally here in defense of Kurdish rights. We all want to secure the Kurdish interests here and there is no disagreement among us.”


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