MESOP : HERO’S COMPLOT ! – Cronyism still rules the PUK

By Mufid Abdulla: Kurdistan Tribune – 30.7.2014 – In this year’s Iraq parliamentary elections, the PUK won 18 seats and this kept them in a position to take the post of presidency of Iraq, like last time. We don’t know exactly why the PUK did well in the elections to the Iraqi parliament but not to the Kurdistan parliament and I believe we need to do more study on this subject. Over the last several months of PUK internal struggle, according to my soundings, most party members and probably a majority of the Kurdish public favoured the presidency going to the PUK’s second deputy leader, Barham Salih.

Salih is 54 years old. He became a PUK foot soldier in the 1970s, was jailed in the struggle and – critically – he is politically qualified for the presidential role as an intellectual and scholar. However, it is a sad truth of contemporary politics in Kurdistan that the ‘crony principle’ holds most sway within the PUK, with key posts frequently going to members and close allies of the Talabani family. How else to explain the news that Fuad Masum, a 78 year old man who is Jalal Talabani’s strongest supporter and childhood friend from their schooldays and earliest years of struggle in the mountains of Kurdistan, was selected as the Kurdish candidate and next day won the vote in the Iraq parliament with the support of Iraq prime minister Nuri Maliki?

There was a well-organised political plot coordinated by Talabani’s wife, Hero Ahmed, to crush Barham’s candidacy. Fuad Masum may be a most longstanding member of the PUK aristocracy but that doesn’t mean he was the best candidate for the job. Salih is regarded as not loyal by the Talabani family because, after the difficult day of 13 September 2013 when the PUK lost many Kurdistan parliament seats in the Suli area, he told the leadership that it should accept electoral defeat.

It has always baffled me that the PUK, which is supposed to stand up for the little guy, has such a poor record of ignoring the wishes of its own members. The only explanation I can think of is that, historically, the PUK has never been punished for failing to deliver on its programme. It has advocated power for the people while, for the last 20 years, concentrating power in the hands of a tiny Kurdish elite. Still, thanks to the rise of the Gorran movement, it can no longer take its working class support for granted. Regardless of the privileges they now enjoy, PUK leaders could yet pay a price for their mistakes.