Lahur’s maneuver in the next 30 days; what is happening inside PUK?

20-07-2020 10:29
The latest meeting of the PUK Leadership Council, July 19, 2020. Photograph: PUKmedia

Peregraf- Surkew Mohammed

The leadership council of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) decides to suspend the participation of its speaker and faction in the Kurdistan Region’s parliament sessions, which was proposed by PUK’s co-leader, Lahur Sheikh Jangi, marking ‘the first actual step’ to put pressure on the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Jangi has set 30 to 40 days to raise the red flag, which is the PUK’s withdrawal from the one-year-old government.

The decision which was made yesterday is not fully agreed upon by the PUK’s leadership and has led to disputes, this is why the news was not announced yesterday after the PUK leadership council’s meeting. Today, PUK parliament speaker, Rewaz Fayaq, went to office as a regular day; however, it is unknown yet whether she will participate in the next parliament session.

The decision has been disputed by the Talabani family, including Bafel Talabani, the other PUK co-leader and Qubad Talabani, a leader in the PUK’s council of leadership and the current deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), as well as Kosrat Rasul Ali, head of the Supreme Political Council of PUK. The leaders of PUK Council are significantly affiliated with Jangi and back his decisions.

A high profile source, who is familiar with the decision and ongoing discussion of the PUK, spoke to Peregraf and said that, “the yesterday’s decision of the leadership council of PUK to suspend the work of the [PUK’s] speaker of parliament and [its] faction was proposed by Lahur Sheikh Jangi and was voted on by the present leaders.”

“In case, the speaker of parliament does not abide by the decision, then the decision to replace Rewaz Fayaq will be made and someone else will succeed her,” the source claimed.

The source explained the reason why they have made such a decision and said that, “the PUK reason for the decision is that the KDP, without going back to the collective agreement of the parties, in particular PUK, works in the way it pleases on the basis of majority of parliament, rather than compromise and power-sharing agreement”.

“For such moves of the KDP, revoking the immunity of [parliament member] Soran Omer was presented as an example. Despite that the decree was annulled by parliament speaker, the KPD still insists on the implementation of the decree and works opposite to the well of the whole factions except for the minorities, who align with the KDP,” the source added.

Several influential PUK leaders did not attend yesterday’s meeting, when the decision was made. The leaders are the other PUK co-leader, Bafel Talabani and KRG Deputy Prime Minister, Qubad Talabani as well as other leaders such as Shalaw Kosrat Rasul, Darbaz Kosrat Rasul and Raf’at Abdullah. “Those who did not participate are a lot, some due to personal reasons and the other are concerned,” the source said.

The meeting included several topics including the evaluation of PUK’s parliament speaker and its faction and the speaker was criticized by some leaders of the council.

“The critics [against Fayaq] were about her weak actions toward the KDP in parliament and the response of Fayaq was that the KDP is majority in the parliament, has first and second deputy speakers and is able to pass whatever bill they want without going to back to her.”

The next move of Lahur Sheikh Jangi; will he succeed?

Peregraf has learned from a high profile leader of the PUK that yesterday’s decision is the first move to raise yellow card against the KDP by Jangi’s group. “In the second step, the PUK will withdraw from the government, and to do that, Lahur Sheikh Jangi has set 30 to 40 days. If the PUK does not meet with the KDP and if both parties do not step toward a new comprehensive agreement, then the proposal to withdraw from the government will be presented to the leadership council and snap election will be called for.”

It has been a month since the PUK’s intra-division has once more appeared and has intensified, while the party claimed that they overcame their intra-division after holding congress late last year. As a result, it is yet to be known whether Jangi will successfully maneuver his plans.

“It is correct that the decisions are made by the leadership council, who are mostly aligned with Lahur Sheikh Jangi, but a majority vote is not sufficient for the important cases. Those, who are with Lahur, are a vulnerable majority, who confronts a strong, experienced and powerful minority who has the capability to determine the important cases,” said a source close to the PUK high profile leaders.

The source added that, “for instance, the former politburo members, some of whom are members of the Supreme Political Council of PUK led by Kosra Rasul Ali, support Talabani Family [Bafel and Qubad] because they believe that Lahur Sheikh Jangi played a role in their marginalization and structuring this new PUK in the congress.”

Last month, Lahur Sheikh Jangi showed his power in the party when an official statement of the PUK on the KRG’s decision to reduce salaries was removed from the party’s media and a tweet of him replaced it, which was against the content of the statement.

The PUK politburo members met to take a stance against the KRG’s decision to cut civil servants’ salaries. However, the statement issued after the meeting was not against the salaries cut, but rather showed PUK’s support for its team in the government to take part in the decision, explaining that the KRG “unwillingly” has taken the step.

“The statement was issued with the approval of Bafel Talabani,” which was taken down from the PUK media after a couple of hours.

“The leadership council of the PUK will meet. If the KRG doesn’t reach an agreement with Baghdad, and if there’s no transparency with the revenues and expenses of the KRG, the PUK will not become a part of cutting salaries. Suspending participation in parliament and government as well as calling for early elections will be one of our choices,” Lahur Sheikh Jangi said in his tweet.

Even though the PUK leadership council met after the tweet, the council did not make any decision in line with what Jangi said in the tweet.

As a result of the KDP and the PUK disputes, in particular the rivalry between Lahur Sheikh Jangi and Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, Jangi’s moves against Barzani’s government have appeared as an opposition party, while PUK is in the government, which was harshly criticized for its decision to reduce civil servants’ salaries. The decision has been an opportunity not only to attack the government but also to seize people’s sentiment against the reduction.

KDP and PUK disputes have increased since late PUK congress in which Lahur Sheikh Jangi was elected as one of the two co-leaders of the PUK. KDP is yet to recognize Jangi as a co-leader of the PUK and accept the new leadership of the party.

Currently, a number of the PUK leaders believe that their parties disputes is related to “personal problems” between Jangi and Masrour Barzani, that dates back to several years ago and the personal problems “cannot be those of two parties.”

“They believe that because of the consequences of the Kurdistan’s independence referendum and the reestablishment of the federal jurisdiction in the disputed areas, the problems have changed to KDP problems with a group of PUK, led by Lahur Sheikh Jangi. Thus, some PUK leaders claim such problems should not be considered as two parties’ problems and should not pose threats to the Kurdistan Region as an entity.”

After three years of the KRG independence referendum on September 25, 2017, its consequences are still impactful on KDP PUK relations as the decision to hold it divided the KRG political parties and the society over two groups; one supporting it and the other opposing the timing.

The KDP and the other supporters of the referendum, including PUK’s senior leader Kosrat Rasul Ali, believe that holding the referendum was exercising an important right and was a historic achievement, adding that a group of the PUK “betrayed” its result.

Lahur Sheikh Jangi has been accused of collaborating with the Iraqi government and Iranians to hand over the oil-rich city Kirkuk to Iraq, but such accusations have been denied by Jangi and his supporters, who claim the referendum itself was a “betrayal.”

Kurdish political parties’ accusation of treason against one another has a long history: in the past decades, such accusations have been used by a political party against another whenever certain political movements failed. In the meantime, the accused party have pursued the language of betrayal against the other party.