SUICIDAL PUK : PUK in a Quandary After Poll Rout By Gorran

By HEVIDAR AHMED – RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Saturday’s elections have shaken the political landscape of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region: The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — the political rival of the heavyweight Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) — is no longer the second-strongest party.

That place now belongs to the Change Movement (Gorran). Gorran, a splinter group of the PUK formed in 2009, is the expected winner of last Saturday’s “decisive” election.  According to the initial results, KDP is expected to secure over 40 parliamentary seats, which means that that the party has won 100,000 more votes than in 2009. KDP’s votes are twice more than its closest rival, Gorran. This will allow the KDP to lead the government for the next four years.

The election was a challenge for the KDP’s ambition of emerging as the leading party in Kurdistan. During the election campaign KDP Vice President Nechirvan Barzani said it was important for the KDP to emerge as the clear winner of the election, because that would send a strong message.

Despite these striking developments, KDP officials have said their party is not willing to end its strategic agreement with the PUK, suggesting they may want to form the next government with the PUK, instead of with Gorran.

“The PUK is our partner; we will welcome PUK’s participation in the next government. We will not disregard PUK,” said Fazil Mirani, secretary of the KDP’s politburo. Mirani’s statement may be a temporary salve for the PUK’s election wounds.  That wound is deep because, instead of dealing with the defeat that is now its share, the PUK had hoped that this election would mean an end of Gorran.

Dilshad Abdulrahman, a PUK politburo adviser, told Rudaw that the PUK appreciates the KDP’s gesture in wanting to continue the partnership. But, he said, “We should clearly inform the KDP that we cannot continue with the Strategic Agreement because it is in favor of the KDP.

“PUK has two options, it can either participate in a pluralistic government or become an opposition party for the next four years,” Abdulrahman added.Mirani had said that the, “KDP is willing to form the next cabinet with participation of PUK, Islamic Union of Kurdistan (IUK), and minority groups.”

On the participation of Islamic groups, he said: “We will welcome IUK’s participation in the next cabinet; the IUK itself has expressed its desire to be part of the next cabinet.”

Regarding Gorran, Mirani said the party must decide whether it wants to become part of the government, or remain in opposition.

“Gorran’s participation in the government needs to be discussed. Gorran can’t participate in the government and act as an opposition party at the same time. If it decides to join the government it has to follow the government’s program and agenda,” he said. “Nechirvan Barzani will remain prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, because within and outside KDP there is demand to keep him,” Mirani commented.   A senior PUK official said there are calls within the party not to join the next cabinet, because that would mean suicide for the party’s existence.

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