Party Insiders Warn of Divisions Inside PUK

10/09/2012 04:48:00 By HEVIDAR AHMED – RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — After the dramatic split of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which led to the formation of the Change Movement (Gorran), many people thought the PUK would adjust its lines and become more unified to prevent further splits in the party.However, senior officials in the party are warning about an ongoing “struggle and polarization within.”Mala Bakhtiyar, chairman of the executive committee of the PUK political bureau, admits, “Unfortunately, there is a struggle within the PUK,” he said.

PUK spokesperson Azad Jundiyan agrees that there are signs that polarization exists within his party. “This is a contest within the PUK over winning the trust of Jalal Talabani. Talabani has intervened twice now between the struggling groups. Only he can deal with this problem.”

On Aug. 28, Arsalan Bayiz, a PUK political bureau member and current speaker of Kurdish Parliament, made a statement to Kurdistani New—the mouthpiece newspaper of his party—that read: “Polarization will not be solved without having the will to do so. Partisan meetings and gatherings cannot solve this issue. There has always been struggle within the PUK and this has been a part of its weakness.”

Before the foundation of Gorran, there were three camps within the PUK: one led by Talabani himself; the second by Kosrat Rasul, chairman of the managing committee of the PUK political bureau; and the camp of Nawshirwan Mustafa, deputy to the PUK secretary at the time.

These three camps were in conflict. The camps of Talabani and Rasul united before the second party congress was held. They overshadowed the camp of Mustafa, known as the camp of reform back then.

When Mustafa’s group split from the PUK, many thought that would end the internal struggle within the party. But Arif Rushdi, leadership member of the PUK, told Rudaw, “From the time the PUK was founded, there were three different trends within the party, and they still exist.”

Rushdi referred to the different trends in more specific terms, speaking of the socialist movement, the toilors (Ranjdaran) and the mainstream, which established the PUK in 1976.

Rushdi criticized the methods of decision making within the party. “The PUK needs to seriously reconsider its practice of decision making, especially when it comes to fateful issues such as making alliances with other political parties, participation in the government and elections. These issues need discussion and consultation with the party’s lower organs in order to find out what the majority of party leaders think.”

“Decision-making within the PUK needs to come to terms with the modern concept of democracy,” Rushdi added.

On the other hand, Hallo Penjweni, a PUK official, doesn’t believe there is any polarization within the party. “I am inside the coordination office of the PUK and do not see such a thing,” he said.

According to Penjweni, some of the issues inside the PUK can be attributed to the failure to implement recommendations from the third PUK congress.

“The decision-making problem largely exists in the centers of the PUK,” he said. “For example, some of our centers should have seven directors but they have 50 instead. It is impossible to decide with 50 people. In Erbil, some of our centers merged and now have 35 directors and 10 deputies. These issues need to be solved.”

Abdulhakeem Khasraw, a lecturer at Erbil’s Salahaddin University, said that if PUK does not resolve its internal struggles, it will face a big crisis. “This could result in a big split among PUK ranks. In the case of the disintegration of the PUK, many problems would emerge in Kurdistan.”

“Other groups within the PUK could disturb the situation in Kurdistan since they have military and security powers,” Khasraw added.