Will Newshirwan Mustafa run for President?

By Harem Karem: Kurdistan Tribune – 14.8.2012

The recent active antagonism has set all eyes anxiously on the emerging political equations. Political parties have allied themselves with neighbouring states and even, to some degree, slid towards involvement in regional conflicts. This might temporarily palliate the Kurdish condition but is unlikely to resolve the root of the problem since neither of these neighbouring states’ ‘support’ extends to their own Kurdish populations. Instead, they are motivated by exerting power in Iraq and Syria.

Where are we?

Newshirwan Mustafa, General Coordinator of the Change movement (Gorran), the second largest party in Kurdistan and Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and current Kurdistan Region President are in the driving seats of two racing vehicles sponsored by Iran and Turkey, while America holds the racing flag – as the ‘in bikini bonus’ – waiting to reward the winner. In these vehicles are the Kurds, unaware where they are being driven to.

Gorran and PUK

Bold remarks by Mustafa, televised twice by KNN this month – singling out Barzani and his KDP rather than focussing on the collective shortcomings of the coalition in which his former comrades of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are equal partners – indicates that he had a successful visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran following its official invitation.

There have also been numerous meetings between the Gorran and PUK leaderships over the past months. The PUK, currently in an unhappy arranged-marriage with the KDP, is more likely to become the kingmaker. As well as being ideologically closer to Gorran than to other parties in the region, it also has strong historical ties with Iran. Both parties are deemed to have laid the ground for a ‘possible’ alliance in the next general election campaign in 2013.


There is a saying among the Kurds: “The person who reaches for a big stone is already showing a sign of weakness and inability to throw it”. Indeed, on his return from Turkey, Barzani failed in his call for the ‘pro-Iran’ Iraqi PM Maliki to resign – because Iran stopped him from securing the support at home of the PUK and Gorran. Barzani’s disputes with Maliki appeared more ludicrously personal than concerning the interests of the Kurds in Iraq. He accused Maliki of monopolising all central government powers when he has been doing the same himself for more than twenty years! On the other hand, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has paralysed Barzani’s attempt to exert his influence in Western Kurdistan. But it’s not all bad news for Barzani. The fourth largest party, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), is also on good terms with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and, when push comes to shove, it tends not to scratch its head and wonder what’s happening but instead to ally itself with the KDP.


Where to next?

There is speculation that Mustafa has weighed his options and decided to challenge for the presidential post in the next general elections – and hence he is making bold remarks and taking Barzani head-on. Using this card sounds wise and makes a lot of sense. One could see him possibly sailing through to the presidency, should he chose to pursue it, since he enjoys broad support from Gorran, the PUK and most of the smaller parties in Kurdistan. However, the road to the presidential office is paved with potholes that need urgent attention. It’s imperative that Gorran and the PUK put all their weight behind constitutional reform and its ratification prior to the next general election. This would not only enable the president to be elected by the parliament and avoid fraudulence as has occurred in past presidential elections, but it would also mean concentrating on building institutions, giving greater power to the parliament rather than to individuals, creating an independent judiciary system and an independent and unified army instead of private party militias. Will Mustafa use this card? If he does, would Barzani accept a peaceful transition of power – especially after spending the past twenty plus years building thick walls around his clan like an autocratic regime, putting his sons in charge of the Peshmerga forces and Security Services and his nephew and son-in-law in charge of his government?


Independent report on Gorran’s internal elections

By the The Kurdish Institute for Elections (KIE) – 15.8.2012 

In June, the Kurdistan Institute for Elections (KIE) observed leadership elections held by the opposition Gorran party. This was the first time that a south Kurdistan political party had agreed to independent monitoring of its internal election processes. A recent KIE report provides a balance sheet of this experience. There were three phases of the Gorran elections: of the Leadership Council of the circles of the movement, the Cadres Council Leadership and the District Council leaders. KIE monitors observed all of the voting at 41 voting stations in Kirkuk, Sulaimanyah and Erbil. The report lists 24 positive outcomes of the process and also some negatives, including the delayed opening of some polling stations, 22 repeated names found in the Penjwen District voters list and the lack of a procedure for when two candidates for one position topped the poll with equal votes.

KIE Report Concerning Change Movement Elections in Sulaimanyah, Erbil and Kirkuk Provinces

The Kurdish Institute for Elections (KIE) is an independent non-governmental organization working towards combining the electoral aspect with the other forms of political participation, and raising the Kurdistan people’s awareness of the principles of democracy.  The Institute was formed in 2002 by a group of lawyers in Sulaimani and has monitored many elections in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. For more details:  www.kie-ngo.org