By Delovan Barwari
The world witnessed millions of Iraqis and Kurds cast their votes in the second Iraqi parliamentary election held on March 7th, 2010. The timing of this monumental occasion is highly critical and the outcome will certainly be one of the most pivotal events that will transform the balance of power in Baghdad as Washington is planning to reduce its military presence in Iraq. The eccentric alliance of Ayad allawi’s Al-Iraqia among Sunnis, Shiites, and Turcomans on the one hand, and the failure of Kurds to fully unite under a single Kurdistani list on the other hand, will certainly diminished the Kurdish political clout in Baghdad and complicate the status of the disputed areas.
Thus far, the election has fueled numerous controversies among various political, religious, and ethnic groups in Iraq. Amongst the most controversial is article 140, a potentially explosive article which defines a mechanism to resolve the issue of the disputed areas claimed by Kurds, most importantly Kirkuk. It is believed by many analysts that the dispute has the potential to ignite an all out civil war between Kurds and Arabs.
In June of 2009, a splinter group from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), under the leadership of Newshirwan Mustfa, the former deputy chief of PUK, emerged as a new Kurdish opposition group known as Gorran (Change in Kurdish). As the citizens of Kurdistan became frustrated with widespread corruption and cronyism, the slogans of reform and change became highly attractive to their ears; consequently, through its media outlets, Newshirwan capitalized on people’s sense of dissatisfactions and frustrations and created a power vacuum while entering the political arena, which inevitably transformed the balance of power in PUK’s strong hold, Sullimania.
In principal, opposition groups are highly vital for the transformation and progression of a nation’s political system, and generally is an important instrument that limits political corruption. Based on a study, “Party and Corruption in New Europe”, by Leiden University, it was concluded that, “ Where party competition is strong, governing and opposition parties will ´keep each other in check´, uncovering corrupt behavior of their opponents, and rational voters will penalize corrupt politicians at elections”.
In contrast, although opposition is healthy in principal, it can also be destructive in certain cases. In the case of Iraqi - Kurdistan, the political predicament is like no other in the world. Kurdistan is a land locked region surrounded by traditional enemies which are determined to eradicate and destroy the gains Kurds have made in recent years. The Kurdish opposition leaders must recognize that the concept of opposition and reform must not be at the expense of Kurdistan’s national interest.
One of the oldest concepts used by rulers of vast empires - such as Romans and Britain’s - to exploit tribes against one another for maintaining absolute control over their region was the concept of Divide and rule. Gorran and the Kurdish Islamic parties’ decision to run as independent lists in Iraqi election, indirectly applied the concept of Divide and rule to Kurdistan for its enemies.
Based on report published by Rudaw, in Kerkuk, Musil, and Diyala, nearly 100,000 votes casted for Gorran and the Kurdish Islamic parties (Yekgirtu and Komal) were lost, due to the threshold requiring a minimum of 25000 votes. As a result, the balance of power shifted in favor of Ayad Allawi’s Al-Iraqia party and his Sunni and Turcoman partners. One thing for sure, Gorran helped bring “change” to Kirkuk – a change from Kurdish dominance to the rise of Sunnis and Turkmans into power.
The failure of Kurds to enter into the Iraqi parliamentary election as a unified Kurdistani list has depicted an image of being more susceptible to Baghdad’s hegemony; moreover, it has diminished the Kurdish posture in the disputed areas. Due to the aforementioned reasons, the Kurdish leadership must be aware of the dangers posed ahead and set aside their differences. More importantly, with the current political climate in Iraq, it is greatly crucial for Gorran and the Kurdish Islamic parties to place Kurdistan’s national interest above their party’s interest and unite with Kurdistan Alliance. As Publilius Syrus has stated, “Where there is unity there is always victory”
You can email your opinions to Delovan Barwari at: Delovan@yahoo.com