Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wayne White: Kurdish competition will not weaken the Kurds


By Hawar Abdul-Razaq Ali

Iraq-expert Wayne White says that the competition among Kurdish parties for the Kurdish vote will not necessarily weaken Kurdish power. He also says that’s likely that the Kurdish opposition parties will attain a more favorable result then the ruling Kurdish parties KDP and PUK.

White is a former Director Deputy Director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia and Adjunct Scholar at the Middle East Institute.

This time around, the Kurdish political parties won't be one list and they will have several different lists for the upcoming election, do you think this division will weaken Kurdish future power?

I do not think greater competition within the KRG necessarily weakens future Kurdish power. In fact, it might diversify and strengthen the popular base upon which the KRG government rests. When the chips are down, unless, as in that sad year of 1996, individual Kurdist political movements make highly questionable and potentially destructive deals with political elements outside the KRG for the specific purpose of damaging other players within the KRG, Kurds usually recognize vital moments in which they must remain united in defense of Kurdish interests. Alliances and cooperation between the KRG and other non-Kurdish political elements within Iraq are sorely needed, but not if the purpose is merely an effort to position Kurdish elements to damage other elements within the KRG.

Do you expect Gorran movement to do well again just like last election, or do you think the main parties like KDP-PUK alliances this time will achieve more votes?

If the upcoming elections are free, fair and unmanipulated, I believe elements within the KRG independent of the traditional KRG and PUK should achieve an even more favorable electoral result.

In your opinion, what the Kurds should do to get more votes outside the KRG borders?

Political actions on the part of the KRG and parties within it must demonstrate a greater and more genuine sympathy for the interests of certain non-Kurdish political entities and ethno-sectarian elements. Many Kurdish actions in the past simply appear to Arabs, Turcomen and Christians as efforts to engage in a one-dimensional zero-sum game aimed at enhancing Kurdish interests at their expense. In some areas, Kurdish interests are best served by listening--seriously and meaningfully--to the concerns of other ethno-sectarian groups. After all, historically the greater Kurdish community in Iraq has been inclusive (and even protective) of other ethno-sectarian minorities in its midst and nearby, not exclusionary--a key factor in its greatness.

Do you see a possible alliance between Maliki and a Kurdish political list, and if that to happen, which list will you fancy becoming a partner with Maliki?

It is very difficult for me to sort out whether Maliki will align himself formally with a KRG list because it appears Maliki is even less than certain about what he should do with respect to even the greater Arab-Iraqi community beyond!

Some experts believe that because of Kurdish division, after the election they will lose the president's post as well, what do you think of that?

If lists within the KRG are too bitterly competitive, they could undermine Kurdish power outside by raising the possibility of some measure of disunity at key moments in the political process beyond. However, on balance, it probably would be unwise if either Sunni and Shi'a Arab parties move to take the presidency from the Kurds. The [Iraqi] Kurdish presidency has played an important function at times in recent years by rising above the darker politics of the day to remind all of the national interest. Jalal Talabani has even suffered the loss of some of his support within the KRG because, at times, it has appeared to some Kurds that he was insufficiently mindful of Kurdish interests in his actions. I believe they are mistaken. Quite often Jalal has tried to defend the greater national good by acting the part of a fully "Iraqi" president, but Kurds must understand that this is exactly what he should be doing in that important post.

Don't you think the process of banning hundreds of Sunni candidates and then letting them return to the fold has damaged the credibility of the election?

Yes, nothing has been more damaging to the election's basic legitimacy than attempts on the part of various elements through one body in Baghdad of iffy legitimacy itself to engage in any exclusionary witch-hunt. And it is not even clear at present whether those Sunni Arab, but also a good number of relatively secular, candidates have truly been restored. That is being opposed, and even the manner of the restoration has merely postponed the final decision until the potentially politically unstable period following the elections.

A lot of people believes that after the election, the Kurds will be weakened and they predicts a bleak future for them, what do you think of this?

The Kurds can only be truly weakened if some of the key Kurdish players lose sight of their own collective Kurdish interest or elements outside the KRG foolishly try to reduce the Kurdish role in the central politics of Baghdad to gain further narrow-minded advantages for themselves.

In the last Kurdish election campaign, there were a lot of violence between Gorran and PUK supporters, do you expect the same things happen again?

I hope there is less strife between competing Kurdish elements in the coming elections, but the possibility of violence cannot be excluded.

© Rudaw