BIG TROUBLE INSIDE PUK : With Elections Looming, PUK’s Top Leaders Lose Patience Over Party Stalemate

 RUDAW 25.6.2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) top officials have threatened to resign unless the party’s decision-making process – officially still largely in the hands of an ill president who has been absent for months – is revised, a well-placed party insider told Rudaw.

Barham Salih, the party’s number two after Jalal Talabani who has been in a German hospital since suffering a grave stroke in December, has threatened to resign together with four other leadership officials, unless proposed changes are made, said the well-placed source in the PUK. He said that Salih and his four supporters — Hakim Qadir, Mahmoud Sangawi, Rizgar Ali and Azad Jundiani – want changes in decision-making, financial management and relations with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the PUK’s ruling partner in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

PUK leaders had initially proposed a joint council to run party affairs in Talabani’s absence, but seven months on they have yet to agree on who should run the party and the next step forward. The leaders behind the proposal warn that the party cannot afford to remain stalemated any longer by Talabani’s illness.

More junior PUK officials reached by Rudaw commented that the proposal was about leaders looking to the once-postponed local elections, which were planned again for September in the autonomous Iraqi enclave but are likely to be delayed another time.

“These leaders want huge amounts of cash placed at their disposal for their election campaigns, and that is why they speak about PUK finances and sources of income,” said a PUK official who preferred to remain unnamed. “They want their candidates of choice promoted in the next elections,” said another PUK member. The PUK’s Shalaw Ali Askari confirmed there was such a proposal by the five senior members. “But it has not been put into practice yet,” he added. “Mr. Salih wouldn’t make such suggestions unless they were strongly necessary.”

In their proposal, the five names behind it also have claimed that in Talabani’s absence the KDP has sidelined the PUK in dealings with the central government in Baghdad.They believe that that the party’s relation with the KDP is unbalanced and that the PUK has come out as the weaker side in its 2007 Strategic Agreement, allowing joint rule over the Kurdistan Region through the KRG. Over the past several months, the KRG’s negotiations with Baghdad have concerned huge issues such as oil extraction and export rights, the annual budget allocation and security in disputed territories claimed by both governments.