PUK Rift Large & Future Uncertain, Party Officials Say / NO FUTURE PUK

By Nawzad Mahmoud – 11.2.2014 – SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Differences among the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s top leadership are too great for an amicable resolution, and the party faces an uncertain future because of indecision within its ranks, according to senior PUK officials.

Since PUK leader Jalal Talabani disappeared from the scene following a stroke more than a year ago that has meant a long convalescence in Germany, the group has gone from one crisis to another. It lost its standing as Kurdistan’s second-largest party to the breakaway Change Movement (Gorran) in last September’s elections for the Kurdish legislature, and last month suffered the resignation of Barham Salih as deputy secretary general after a decision to cancel a January 31 convention to resolve the leadership crisis. Yusuf Zozani, member of the PUK Coordination Bureau who has played mediation roles in the past to resolve party conflicts, says he has made no effort to resolve differences among Salih, Rasul and Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, Talabani’s wife. Differences among them exploded about two weeks ago, after the PUK delegated Talabani’s powers to a three-member council comprised of the three leaders.

“Except for Ms. Ahmed, I do not have good relationships with the other leaders. But my other colleagues have tried to mediate among them,” said Zozani. He added, “You wouldn’t try if you knew that your efforts are going to be futile.”

Zozani said that Talabani was aware of the rivalry among the three senior leaders and knew that these rivalries would not allow the three to run the party during in his absence. He said that is why Talabani had created a central council of more than 100 members, and expanded the politburo and leadership council.

“But what can be done if we were unable to agree among ourselves?” asked  Zozani, who was instrumental in mediating between Talabani and Nawshirwan Mustafa, after the latter split from the PUK and set up the Change Movement (Gorran) in 2009.Zozani said that Talabani “had foreseen this day, but he wouldn’t talk about details when you wanted to discuss this issue with him.  He often said that we have to preserve the ties among ourselves and with the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party).”

According to Wasfiya Baniwais, a leadership member of the PUK, “Mr. Barham and Mr. Kosrat did not quit their jobs; they are still making decision within the PUK.”

“Luckily all the leadership members and the central council members of the PUK still believe in PUK and the rule of PUK. We will continue our efforts so that our leaders will resume doing their work,” she added, The three bickering PUK leaders recently visited Iran and agreed to resolve their party issues through joint leadership, after mediation by senior Iranian officials and a KDP delegation.

But the accord fell apart after the party convention was cancelled, angering Salih and Ali.

Zozani said the convention was postponed after all the PUK branches sent reports demanding a delay. Another senior PUK member painted a bleak picture of the situation.  “However you look at it, the image of the current situation is a pessimistic one. Indecision has become the main issue within the PUK,”  said the official, who preferred to remain anonymous.“Talks to form a new Kurdish government will become even more difficult after the latest crisis of the PUK,” the official said. “There have always been differences within the PUK, but the presence of Talabani played an influential role to overcome these differences,” said Zozani.

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