It is that time of the year again where we have to look back and look ahead at the same time. Looking back, 2013 had its ups and downs in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Democratically, a very successful election took place, an election that had no winners or losers. It proved that Kurdistan cannot be governed or ruled by one party alone, and that the best way forward is a broad-based government founded on the basis of true partnership.
But we still don’t have that government. All sides seem to be in agreement on going round the normal convention. That means allowing the biggest bloc’s nominated prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, more time to complete discussions and then be officially called by the president to form the government.
And this seems to be the only point of political agreement in Kurdistan today. Almost every heavyweight political party seems to be moving away from the others, adding an extra complication to the internal politics of Iraqi Kurdistan.
On the media freedoms front, a very good legislation that allows for the right to information was passed. But at the same time media intimidation continues, and another journalist was killed because of his work.
Although externally Iraqi Kurdistan seems to be in a better place in the Middle East, this could well be undermined by the internal political dynamics and the wide rift between the various parties.
This applies to the economic prospects of the region, which is now pumping oil to Turkey. Yet, many questions as to the future of the oil and its revenues remain unanswered.
The political dynamics of Iraqi Kurdistan could also determine the future of its oil politics and economy.
Last year, at around the same time, the talk was whether the Kurds of Iraq could “pick the apple,” a euphemism for independence. The question back then was, “are we ready?”
This year, the Kurds of Iraq seem closer to “picking the apple,” especially with the oil being pumped out to Turkey. But the question this time seems to be: With this new factor, what are the possibilities for us?
Are we becoming a region (or state) isolated from its surroundings and totally reliant on Turkey? If so, isn’t this a recipe for a repeat of another bitter episode of being let down by a neighbor? Are we setting up the underpinnings of a banana republic for Turkey? This is the external aspect of the issue.
Looking internally, with all oil money ready to come in, the current debate is over whether we are heading towards a Nigeria-model or a Norway one? Are we fit enough to be Norway, or is the level of internal conflict and corruption high enough to take us down the Nigeria route?
Then there is the Gulf-states model of economy and governance, which some would like to see: Here, an unaccountable ruling elite dishes out money to the public, who use foreign labor to do all the work for them.
In fact, some seem to favor this option by trying to brand Kurdish cities like those in the Gulf. “Erbil is the next Dubai,” has become a common refrain. The question here will be, is the Kurdish society with all its history of blood and oppression similar to that of the Gulf? Can a Gulf model work here?
These are all questions that our thinkers and politicians should be prepared to look deeper into as they enter 2014.