Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Does the new cabinet have legitimacy?

By Razan Lawan

Iraqi Kurdistan’s sixth government led by Barhem Salih is now appointed and ready to deliver needed services to its citizens. Citizens in Dohuk, Erbil and Suleimani have demands, needs and opinions that must be met by the new cabinet. A two-way, mutual consultation between the people and the government authorities have to be in place. For the latter actor, the prime minister and his ministers, it is a critical and prime period of time to show ‘good’ governance. Delivery of services that meet citizens’ demands of transparency in state affairs, needs of running water in every household, full time electricity and opinions of medias are all some of the issues to be addressed and responded to by the new cabinet.

However, there is a problematic view of the newly established government and its appointed ministers; before it has begun to govern and do its daily working it has been deemed to fail. Large segments of the population share this view; there is a lack of legitimacy of the government, a view which also been expressed by influential political figures in Iraqi Kurdistan. This is a bad development for our internal affairs and maybe more importantly in our foreign, external affairs.

When I mention legitimacy I do not mean the legal aspect of this. In the parliamentary and presidential elections this year the ruling coalition of PUK and KDP got most of the seats in parliament. Most people voted for their ‘Kurdistani’-list. This must be respected. However, this outcome was disputed and brought uncertainty after the elections. This uncertainty still flourishes in the Iraqi Kurdish society. The questioning of the new cabinet and certain ministers, some being blamed for corruption allegations and others for not being capable of having minister posts, largely comes from the people who dispute the election results and who voted for lists outside the ruling parties. An emerging dissatisfaction expressed is mainly voiced by members, officials and supporters of Goran List. These are the voices which give the new government an uncertain future which is critical for KRG.

A weak Kurdish regional government, with weak mandate and support is not what Kurds should prefer in relation to the Iraqi government. Instead it is unity. But unity cannot emerge if the political system in Iraqi Kurdistan stays the same. The fundamental transformation must be regarded to the political structures and processes and not the superficial dimension of changing and reconstructing inside the two ruling parties. It does not matter, I believe, if one official is replaced by another or if another committee is build inside the party. This will do no result to peoples’ demands, needs and opinions. What will do is to rely on democratic rules and actions. And these can happen in certain political structures.

Strengthening a decisive institution such as the parliament is needed. If more than 450.000 voters rely on Change-List or other lists outside the ruling parties then the political value of the parliament must be enhanced. It is within parliament that issues can be addressed in favour of the Kurdish people. Groups in society who have needs, demands or opinions of certain questions relating to their welfare will begin to physically protest outside the parliament in Erbil as an expression mode. Students, workers, families of martyrs and other groups, segments, in society did not know where to go in expressing their dissatisfaction of issues before, but now they know. The parliament in Erbil is now a symbol for democracy, and it is critical that it also be a real political institution for the Kurdish people. One example which shows how far we are from giving the parliament its right authority can be seen with the recently election of the ministers of the new cabinet. The parliament and the parliament speaker did not follow the “rules of the game” when parliamentarians did not have a say in accepting new and old ministers of Barhem Salih’s sixth cabinet. Breaches of the rules of how election of ministers must be made according to democratic standard and how it is necessary for discussion and debate in parliament between the different parliamentarian groups were only noticed by the Goran and Yekgurtu fractions. This was a mistake by the parliament and especially the speaker.

Unfortunately I and many young Kurds, both outside and in our country, do not see a bright near future of the political system and how certain actions are made by the ruling parties and their officials inside the parliament, which are not just undemocratic but also unjust to the people in Iraqi Kurdistan. We all want that the new government deliver what it says it will so demands, needs and opinions of people are met. This will be a necessary condition if the new prime minister wants strong support and mandate from the citizens when tackling issues with the government in Bagdad. Issues concerning the parliament election that are ahead of us including the Kirkuk dispute need a strong united Kurdish voice. But the bleak future is more the reality that I see when the new cabinet lacks legitimacy as a government. The rulers of KDP and PUK, who mostly control KRG and who shape the politics, did not hear the people in this year’s parliament/presidential elections in ‘Kurdistan’ who screamed for “change”. A change not only in people’s daily affairs but also a change in the whole rotten political system of Iraqi Kurdistan.

(Razan Lawan, Malmö University, Sweden.