Despite Washington’s pressures that contributed to curbing the tension between the two ruling parties in the Kurdistan region, ambiguity still surrounds the possibility of achieving outcomes, while the steps of dialogue face a number of obstacles, topped by differences over holding parliamentary elections, developing a new formula for sharing influence and revenues, and dealing within the file of disputes with the federal government, in light of concerns about ‘increasing risks to the Kurdish entity.’
The two main parties were heading to hold a second meeting early next week, after they had held ‘preliminary’ discussions earlier on the background of mediation by the White House Coordinator for Middle East and North Africa Affairs Brett McGurk during his visit to the country, in the middle of last month, and the meeting was officially welcomed by the embassies of the United States and Britain.
The differences between the two parties reached a peak in the aftermath of the PDK accusing security leaders of the PUK of being behind the assassination of an officer who dissented from the latter in the city of Erbil in October of last year, and then the announcement of Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, Pavel’s brother, his boycott of the coalition government meetings in protest against the “l’management method of governance,’ after they engaged in an intense struggle over positions in the federal government, and over the revenue-sharing mechanism in the region.
Warnings of missing the opportunity
Political circles hold hopes to achieve results due to US pressure, motivated by the fact that the region represents an ‘important strategic point’ for US interests in the Middle East region, at a time when the two-party government received a new shock following the issuance of the Federal Court in Baghdad a decision “illegal for the federal government to send funds to the region”, after it issued a similar ruling unconstitutional in its management of its oil file, but the question remains about the extent of the two parties’ ability to overcome the obstacles that they fear will undermine the gains achieved over the past three decades of their near-future rule over Baghdad.
The two parties began a movement at the parliamentary and party levels to take steps towards conducting parliamentary elections during the current year, in preparation for the development of a new agreement formula for governing governance as demanded by Talabani’s party, but before that they have to overcome the differences over the law and the electoral commission, which caused the postponement of the poll, while the decision to extend the legislative life of the current parliament session faces a threat to revoke its legitimacy by the Federal Court, which set the seventh of February as the date for resolving the lawsuits filed regarding its illegality.
A prominent leader in the Democratic Party, Fadel Mirani, stated that his party “will not impose conditions, nor will it accept conditions from any party,” but stressed that “there is no choice but to reach an agreement,” warning of the consequences of “not holding elections during the current year on Confidence in the democratic process.
Mirani’s statements coincided with a round of talks he was holding, a few days ago, by a delegation from his party with the various forces, before holding a second meeting with Talabani’s party.
Thorny electoral path
The main dispute centers around demands for amending the election law and adopting a system of multiple constituencies instead of a single constituency, and allegations related to the voter register that it contains “repeated names and others of the deceased,” as well as the problem related to the failure to resolve the names of citizens in the secondary records in the nationality field, the validity of which the Baghdad government questions. Their numbers are estimated at 140,000, including 124,000 in Erbil and Dohuk, which are under the influence of PDK party, and 17,000 in Sulaymaniyah, where the PUK party’s sphere of influence is.
The coordinator of the “Legal Chamber” in the Change Movement participating in the government coalition, Juman Muhammad, revealed that “the population increase in the region, compared to the data of the federal government, amounts to about 700 thousand people.”
Many obstacles impede the electoral process, in light of the disparity in the demands and proposals of the political forces, and it is not clear to what extent external pressure will affect, especially in the two parties, to move forward, otherwise, given the reality and the level of differences, it is difficult to take place elections before the end of this year. The parties have two proposals to solve the dilemma, both of which are difficult: the first is to resort to the Federal Election Commission’s record, which relies on the biometric system, or to make the national card a basis for voting, and this has its problems. There is another problem related to the mechanism of approving the election results and receiving complaints and appeals, and their sense. Each party has its own observations and demands, and these are matters regulated by the Electoral Commission Law. Therefore, a demand is being made to amend this law, while the legal deadline for the current commission has expired, and it must either extend its mandate or election of new ones in Parliament.
International support has limits
The crisis between the two traditional parties is as a cold war, as they do not agree, and at the same time one cannot continue without the other, and this conflict has negatively affected the Kurdish weight in the federal government, and contributed to weakening their role in terms of decisions. It created a state of despair among the Kurdish street, which has been suffering for years from crises, especially economic ones. Despite this, the Iraqi forces, including the Kurdish ones in general, are subject to the influences of regional and superpowers.
Hence, it is clear that the region has enjoyed some privacy in the past three decades at the regional and international levels, but this does not mean that this status can continue in the event that the crisis situation remains as it is, but that this will develop the entity and experience of the region at stake.
The indications go towards increasing risks for the region based on a strategy that aims to end its entity or at least undermine it, by deepening its crises and pushing it towards more fragmentation, against the continued waste of money, and distraction from priorities without Keeping pace with the changes in the environment, and obstructing the chances of building a real institutional system that expresses a unified constitutional entity.
The region’s economic crisis and the maintenance of the dispute with Baghdad, with its exposure to threats and military pressure under the pretext of sheltering the Kurdish forces opposing neighboring countries, especially Iran, are among the indicators of this scenario.
The existing dangers also include, the inclusion of the region in the international conflict revolving around energy, by giving the region a characterization as a force calculated on the West against Russia and its allies.
Thus, the decisions of the Federal Court against the region also fall within the risks, to be one of the tools that can contribute to detonating the internal situation of the region to the extent of creating a power vacuum to strip it of legitimacy. The distortion that affected the democratic experience in the region after the decision to postpone the elections, not only because it is a reflection of the internal conflict, but also because it has a regional and international dimension that may affect the constitutional entity of the region, given that in both cases, whether with a decision by the Federal Court illegitimate the authority of the region, or failure to hold elections during the current year, it requires finding a way to bridge the legal gap and everything related to the fate of this entity.
The UN envoy to Iraq, Jeanine Plasschaert confim this threat when had informed the leaders of the Kurdish forces that “the region’s position in front of Baghdad, the countries of the region and the international community had become weak, and if the elections were not held, the remaining gains might be wiped out.”