Kurdistan’s Two Ruling Parties Give Conflicting Views on Region’s Constitution

by Nawzad Mahmoud  RUDAW – SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – 6.6.2013 – Differences over whether or not the Kurdistan Region’s constitution should be amended have led to visible disputes between the autonomous region’s two ruling parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). 

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, who is also the KDP leader, told thousands of supporters late last month that the issue can only be resolved through a referendum. A week later Kosrat Rasul, one of the PUK’s top leaders, told supporters during the party’s 38th anniversary celebrations that, “The constitution must return to parliament for amendment.”

The PUK and KDP signed a strategic agreement in 2007 and they have jointly run the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) ever since. Aso Almani, a senior PUK leader believes that the relationship between the two parties will not be affected by the issue of the constitution.

“The two parties’ different stand on this issue will not impact the strategic agreement between them ,” he said.

On the other hand, in a speech delivered to members of his party in Ranya, PUK deputy secretary general and former regional prime minister Barham Salih called for a national consensus to solve the issue. He said that the PUK would not become the puppet of any other party. PUK officials and low-ranking members have recently complained that the strategic agreement has reduced their party to a mere puppet in the hands of the KDP.

On the other hand, speeches and statements by PUK officials during their anniversary rallies – including Rasul’s statement on the constitution — have frustrated KDP officials. “We sense that PUK officials have been making statements that conflict with the strategic agreement,” said Ali Awni, a KDP official. He said it was fine if the PUK wanted to withdraw from the agreement, as long as that did not create tensions between the two sides.  Awni dismissed all claims that the strategic agreement has reduced PUK’s power, saying, “The PUK has benefited from this agreement more than the KDP has.”

On an official visit to Sulaimani last week, Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani urged all parties to come together and find a solution over the constitution. “What the prime minister said is the same thing we want,” said Awni. “That’s why I don’t believe this issue will cause problems between the two parties.” Immediately following the speeches by the PUK leaders on the party’s anniversary, followers of the KDP and PUK set out on a war of words on Facebook. But PUK official Narmin Osman said that kind of fiery exchange has always existed, and would not affect the solid understanding between both parties.