Alliance to separation put Kurdish unity in Baghdad in jeopardy

15-09-2021 01:34

PEREGRAF- Farman Sadiq in Erbil

The ruling Kurdish parties that have formed the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) ninth cabinet have failed to form an alliance – In fact, not only have they failed, but they have unannounced agreements with other sides in Baghdad.

The Kurdish parties have held multiple meetings in the previous years to rebuild what the Kurds had in 2005: the Kurdistan Alliance. However, the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have been unsuccessful to reach an agreement and each has participated in the October 10 parliamentary elections separately – leaving the PUK and the Change (Gorran) party the only alliance.

Doomed to see the same fate of the Sunnis

According to political observer Rabie al-Jubouri, Kurdish parties will, in the upcoming election, experience the same policy that scattered the Sunnis.

"In this election, the Kurdistan [Region] parties are split over two Shiite sides, just as the National Coalition led by Ayad Allawi, who won the election which was a great victory for the Sunnis, bur now three elections later the Sunni parties do not have a political leader they collectively agree on," Jubouri told PEREGRAF.

Jubouri, who closely monitors the political conflict between the Iraqi parties said, "it is worth mentioning that the Kurds are about to make the same mistakes as the Sunnis. We have seen the strength of the Kurdistan Alliance it had before in Baghdad – but if it is like this, they are only aiming to get posts, not their rights of the Region."

The observer suggests Kurds and Sunnis join forces to avoid being overpowered.

In the first parliamentary election of Iraq, the majority of Kurdish parties were a part of the Kurdistan Alliance, which had political power and an impact in Baghdad, but it gradually became less powerful until it was dissolved and now the parties are unable to return to their former alliance.

Despite a lack of alliance in the previous terms, Kurdish parliamentarians have been able to agree and speak with one voice on several issues in the Iraqi parliament.

The risks separation follows

Mahmood Osman, a Kurdish politician, believes that the damages that come with the separation of Kurdish parties in Baghdad will show up in the future, which will pose a threat to the KRG.

The Kurdistan Region owns a semi-independent entity since 1991, and the Iraqi constitution has recognized the authority of the Kurdistan Region since 2005, but as Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, special representative of United Nations for Iraq, reminded Kurdish officials at a conference this year that the Kurdistan Region will not always remain this foolproof.

"When Kurdistan’s prominent political personnel were in Baghdad, Mam Jalal and Mr. Masoud, the existence of the Kurdistan Alliance strengthened the position of the Kurds in decision-making, but now those who go to Baghdad are not on that level, and the Shiites are not like they were before, they are much stronger now," said Osman, a former member of two parliament terms said.

Although Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials talk about post-election unity, the issue of post-distribution, particularly the president of the Republic of Iraq, whom the PUK and KDP fought for in the previous term.

Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region, published a message on election campaigns in September, discussing post-election collaboration, saying, "All political parties must remember that after the election, our goal is to work together in Baghdad to strengthen democracy, Iraq's interests in general, and to achieve and protect the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region in particular."

He added that acts that make it harder to cooperate, collaborate in partnership and solidarity "shouldn’t be done."

In the previous parliament terms, several important federal laws have been passed without the presence of Kurds in parliament, the latest was passing the Deficit Law in 2020.

According to Osman, what is happening to Kurds now is Iran's policy, which he says they have previously tested on the Sunnis, and criticizes the PUK and KDP for believing Sadrists have a better vision for Kurds, and for believing the Fateh Alliance is better, "But the fact is, all Shiite parties have the same perspective for Kurds" considering their reaction when Iraq started sending the monthly 200 billion Iraqi dinars to the Region, for which they are about to "question Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in parliament."

"Iran wants to divide Kurds with Shiite cooperation, and the PUK and KDP must understand that they cannot achieve what they want in Baghdad alone, so this division is very dangerous for the future of the political position and entity of the Kurdistan Region," Osman said.

Iraqi election into a new stage

The KDP has reached an understanding with Muqtada al-Sadr's Sairoon Alliance, PEREGRAF has learned.

Riyadh Masoudi, a member of parliament from the Sadrist Movement, described Sadr and Barzani's understanding was on the basis that "Masoud Barzani is the Kurds’ Marja’ and Muqtada al-Sadr is the only Shia Marja’," he told PEREGRAF.

"This agreement will show after the elections and its results, but its aim is not to disperse the Kurds, and we believe that Masoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, is the Kurds’ Marja’ and the decisions of the Kurdistan Region is with the KDP."

The PUK, which has formed an alliance with the Change party, has reached an understanding with the Fateh Alliance, led by Hadi al-Ameri and Nuri al-Maliki, head of the State of Law Coalition, and Khamis al-Khanjar, a prominent Sunni figure and head of the al-Azm Alliance.

Nasim Abdullah, a member of parliament from the Fateh Alliance, believes the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary has stepped into a new stage, considering coalitions are not based on national, sectarian and tribal principles.

The Fateh member of parliament, told PEREGRAF that the understanding between the parties and has not become an agreement, and that there are now two sides: the KDP, Sadrists and Halbousi, as well as Fateh and the Kurdistan Coalition, which is the PUK and the Change, with other Sunni parties.

"This tells us that in parliament and the next government, all three components - Kurds, Shias and Sunnis - are both in government and opposition in parliament, this is the healthy situation that Iraq is experiencing after 15 years and has passed the ‘alliance based on nationality and sectarian’ stage," said Nasim Abdullah.

He says that their closeness with the PUK does not mean to set the KDP apart, and that no party can do that, "In the end, the outcomes of the elections will affect this understanding, whether which parties can have agreements, yet the Shiite parties are going through a critical stage and want to form a strong government that can answer the demands of the public, so it seems that the next government will not involve all sides, but some Shiite parties will form a government together with some Kurdish and Sunni parties."

Unity in parliament

The Kurdish parties’ separate and far-from-each-other participation in the elections, will lead to an obvious serious threat on the Kurdish position if there is no parliament unity, observers and previous members say.

Shirwan Mirza, a member of Iraqi parliament affiliated with the PUK, believes that the understanding between his party and Fateh Alliance as well as KDP and the Sairoon Alliance means there’s a division between the Kurdish parties, like how there’s a division within the Shiites and the Sunnis. "This is not a dangerous situation" for the future of the Kurdistan Region until after the election.

"After the election, if the Kurdish parties are not united and a Kurdistan Alliance is not re-created, it will cause great damage to the Kurdish issues in Iraq, as the Kurds have a national problem and are different from the Sunnis," Mirza told PEREGRAF.

He says the Shiites have often benefited from the dispersion of Kurdish and even the Sunnis, but he does not believe that the dispersal of Sunni forces in the past two terms of the Iraqi parliament is the tactic of Shia forces, or an attempt to disperse the Kurdish sides in this term.

"It’s Kurds themselves that are scattered, and this separation will harm the future of the Kurdistan Region, it will even put the future of the Kurds in Baghdad in jeopardy," says the PUK member of parliament.

In this year's Iraqi parliamentary elections, around 25 million people out of the more than 40 million population have the right to vote.

In Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, hundreds of parties and alliances with more than 3,240 candidates are competing to win 329 chairs.