Kurdistan’s Government & Opposition: an endless cycle

February 4, 2011

From the start of our new government, new parliament, new presidency and new opposition; the people of Kurdistan have mostly been preoccupied with crisis after crisis between the two.
Most of the time, the crisis gets big when the opposition attacks or seems to attack a “fundamental value” of the people and history of Kurdistan and hence prompting a strong reaction from the government and the ruling parties.
Usually, the reaction comes after a longer campaign from the opposition against the government over things that they can’t defend such as bad public services, corruption, nepotism and political reform.
With every time that a crisis appears, the action and reaction of both sides is disproportionately bigger, more personal and emotional than it should be. As a result, decisions taken are often far from being realistic or based on sound political judgment or practical reasoning.
On of the key reasons for this unhealthy relationship between government and opposition is the disconnect between the ruling parties and the opposition ones as a result of the geographical separation of the constituencies of the ruling and opposition parties.
The geographical distance between government and opposition leaders is an important factor in not creating a better atmosphere between them.
Very rarely in a democracy or an emerging democracy the leaders of the opposition and the ruling parties or the government do not meet when it comes to discussing national security issues, like dissolving the parliament or the government.
The other factor in this is that the geographical distribution of power base of the opposition and the ruling parties is not representative of the political reality of Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
The KDP, the senior partner in the ruling alliance, holds the majority in two governorates, and the opposition group Goran enjoys the majority in the third one.
The PUK, who came second in Sulaymaniya and in Arbil in the elections, is holding the government.
This peculiar setup has driven a wedge between the political parties and their supporters.
It is creating the setup of a strong government in two governorates and a vocal opposition in the third.
Walking through the streets of Sulaymaniyah, one would not think that the KDP is controlling Iraqi Kurdistan. By the same token, very little in Arbil or Dohuk suggest the presence of any Goran opposition.
A situation like this usually creates a much stronger rhetoric when it comes to a conflict and distances the various parties further from each other. This is clearly reflected in every crisis that pops up.
The other important reason is that good government breeds good opposition and vice-versa.
There are a number of important portfolios that the government (the presidency and the council of ministers) has so far failed to tackle.
Fighting corruption and nepotism, political reform and providing public services are all issues that are still waiting to be seriously tackled. So far, they are still talked about and nothing practical is being done about them.
It is only natural from an opposition group to attack the government and its leaders on these issues. Only when real measures are taken to address these portfolios, the government would be able to respond to Goran’s attacks in a more measured way.
Gorran in turn would be able, or forced, to have a more specific and constructive criticism and argument.
This would also pave the way for a more reasonable geographic distribution of government and opposition and real, calm and constructive dialogue and debate between the two.

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