Breaking Kurdistan’s Deadlock

July 13, 2011

The current deadlock between Kurdistan’s ruling parties and the opposition is not working in anyone’s favor. Each seems to think that time is on their side, but in reality neither seems to be winning the competition.
While the authorities are taking some steps toward reform, the opposition is still dismissing their proposals as trivial and insubstantial. Meetings between the two sides are continuing but the opposition largely sees them as a way for the authorities to buy time, and the ruling parties don’t trust the opposition at all.
Meanwhile, the opposition is warning that citizens could take to the streets again, while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) claims those days are gone forever.

All of these and other factors are deepening mistrust between the two sides, making it impossible for them to have a normal, government-opposition relationship and engage with one another. Instead, they are polarized and dismissing every move the other makes.

Looking at the political map, one can see that the key to a breakthrough lies in the relationship between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the opposition leader, Gorran. In the past, the key to a breakthrough was in the relationship between the PUK and Gorran. But following the demonstrations that erupted on February 17 in Sulaimani, the conflict took a different course. As the KDP got involved, the conflict left Sulaimani and came to Erbil.

Although the PUK ended Sulaimani’s demonstrations on its own, it seems that most observers are scrutinizing the relationship between the KDP and Gorran. This is creating a dilemma for both sides.

On the one hand, the KDP widely — yet privately — sees Gorran as a breakaway faction of the PUK that is opposed to PUK’s concessions in its alliance with its one-time rival, the KDP. In this view, Gorran is viewed as the real anti-KDP group and hence, KDP feels safe with the current PUK.

On the other hand, Gorran knows that if it wants to get anything, the group’s future requires a relationship with the KDP. Yet they privately complain that the KDP favors the PUK and feel the KDP unjustifiably mistrusts them. The irony here is that members of the two parties often speak of their relationship in the past but seem to be far apart today.

The way things stand today, the KDP and Gorran are burdened with their allies and are moving at a snail’s pace. The pointing of fingers and exchanging of accusations are creating endless meetings where nothing sustentative materializes. This could go on forever if no real steps are taken to sooth the relationship between the KDP and Gorran.
For this to happen, the KDP needs to prove that they are ready to review their current alliances and agreements and that they are open to real relationship with Gorran. In return, Gorran needs to prove that it is not an anti-KDP or anti-Barzani gathering and that it stands at an equal distance from the PUK and the KDP.
Despite the stalemate, the situation is ripe for a breakthrough. Neither side can continue on this way, and it is only a matter of time before another crisis sweeps the region.

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