Kurdish Parties Say Talabani’s Death Will Weaken PUK Influence, Alliances

27/12/2012 RUDAW By HEVIDAR AHMAD – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s death will plunge his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) into a crisis, other parties agree. But they differ over whether the party can remain strong, or maintain its strategic alliances, without him.

The 79-year-old Talabani, an ethnic Kurd and leader of the PUK which is a partner in the Kurdistan Regional Government together with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), is recovering from a serious stroke at a Berlin hospital.

“The KDP will keep its agreement/alliance with PUK even after Talabani,” says KDP spokesman Jaafar Ibrahim.  “That is because our alliance with PUK is crucial for our nation. For us, a strong PUK and a united PUK is a priority,” he adds.

He dismisses speculation that the PUK would disintegrate once Talabani passed away. “This is not a realistic analysis. It is a very remote possibility because the PUK has many other capable leaders. We believe they will be able to continue the PUK’s struggle,” he says.

That view is not shared by the Change Movement, which broke away from the PUK in 2009 and is known as Gorran.

“We believe that the PUK after Talabani will run into some serious problems,” says Gorran activist Safeen Mala Qara.  “Replacing Talabani in PUK is not an easy task. PUK will have a crisis.”

But Mala Qara says that Gorran would work with the PUK, helping members overcome difficulties in a post-Talabani era. He notes that the two parties had forged relations since Talabani’s stroke early last week.

The Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) also says it would work with the PUK after Talabani.

“As the KIU we will respect any decision made by a post-Talabani PUK,” says Muthana Amin, a member of the KIU leadership council, adding that the president’s demise would affect the party, but not the whole province of Sulaimani, where the PUK holds sway.

“However, after Talabani PUK will run into major problems. Groups may break away from PUK. That is because in Kurdistan the political parties are not based on a healthy political system. Most of the parties are tied to a leader or a family,” Amin adds.

Abdulstar Majeed, a politburo member of the Kurdistan Islamic Group, suggests that PUK members should gather around a common agenda in order to survive after Talabani, saying the president has been instrumental in keeping problems within the party under control. “PUK members should gather around an agreed program for the party. In the Middle East it is difficult for parties to lose their leaders, but if there is a program in place the parties can overcome their difficult times.”