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 Change Movement (Gorran) claims to be second most popular party in Iraq's Kurdistan

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Change Movement (Gorran) claims to be second most popular party in Iraq's Kurdistan  7.8.2012 

Nawshirwan Mustafa, founder of Change, the Kurdish opposition party, greets supporters at an election rally in Sulaimaniyah March 3, 2010. Photo: AFP/Getty Images See Related Links
August 7, 2012

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq',— Nawshirwan Mustafa, leader of the Change Movement (Gorran), claims his party is second in the Kurdistan Region, after the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

In an interview with KNN TV this week, Mustafa said, “If we look at votes, Gorran comes after the KDP, which makes Gorran the second most popular political party. The PUK occupies the third position.”

Arez Abdulla, a member of the political bureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), denied Mustafa’s claim, saying, “Of course, you do not expect a rival party to place you in front of itself.”

He added, “In the next election, we will find the claim that the PUK is the third party untrue.”

Mustafa was the former deputy secretary of the PUK, but split with the party to form Gorran during the July 2009 elections. The party has since come to lead the opposition in Kurdistan.

In the Kurdistan Region’s last parliamentary elections, the KDP won 30 seats, the PUK won 29 and Gorran won 25 seats. Two of Gorran’s MPs broke away from the party and became independents.

The PUK has placed second in Kurdistan elections since 1992. However, during the most recent election, the PUK entered an alliance with the KDP, a step which made it difficult to measure the party’s individual success.

Abdulla does not deny the effect that Gorran’s break from the PUK has left on the party, but says, “If we combine the votes of the PUK and Gorran, we see that our votes have increased compared to those of the 2005 elections. But when part of the PUK breaks away, then of course the party’s votes decrease.”

Abdulla challenged Mustafa’s comments about the PUK’s ranking, saying, “Mr. Mustafa’s words will not affect the PUK. If his words could affect the PUK, they would have affected the PUK when Gorran broke away. Gorran has broken away from PUK. Of course, they will not say good things about the PUK.”

“We do not expect our rivals to say that the PUK is the number one party,” he added.

Azad Chalak, the director of Gorran’s relations in Baghdad, supports Mustafa’s claim and agrees that Gorran ranks second among Kurdistan’s political parties according to the votes. Chalak believes the popularity of both ruling parties – the PUK and KDP – is in decline.

However, Narmin Osman, a member of the PUK’s leadership council, says, “Let them wait for the elections to take place. Then we will find out who ranks first and who ranks second.”

Osman compared her party’s popularity to Gorran’s throughout the Kurdistan Region. “The PUK has supporters in Duhok; Gorran does not,” she said. “In Kirkuk, the PUK is the largest party. Gorran does not have that many supporters there. In Erbil, we are the second largest party. In Sulaimani, we are competing for votes.”

Osman added, “Now, politics have changed. We work on offering projects. We no longer rely on only the votes of our members. We forward projects and see who votes for us.”

The eight seats that Gorran won in the Iraqi parliamentary elections in March 2010 all came from votes in Erbil and Sulaimani provinces. The PUK, meanwhile, won 13 seats in Erbil, Sulaimani, Kirkuk and Diyala.

Abdulla believes his party is in competition with the KDP, who has 30 seats in Iraqi Parliament, for first place.

“Even in the Iraqi parliamentary elections, the KDP was the first party, followed by the PUK,” he says. “In the coming elections, if we do not secure first place, we will have second place without a doubt.”

Muthana Amin, a political analyst and a member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), says elections are one way to measure a party’s weight. He believes Gorran has benefited from the problems between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad.

“The ruling parties in Kurdistan have not been able to convince the public on gas and oil and other issues with Baghdad. Gorran took advantage of the issues,” he said, adding that political parties have to win votes by attracting voters to their side of the story on current issues.

Regarding Mustafa’s interview, Azad Jundiyani, spokesman of the PUK, told Rudaw, “In fact, that statement by Mustafa was inappropriate. However, people are free to say what they want about the issues. No one prevents anyone from telling the story in their words.”

He added, “The PUK and KDP are the two major parties in Kurdistan. They have won most of the parliamentary seats and formed the KRG. This issue should be viewed from that angle, not other angles.”

By Hevidar Ahmed

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