Globe Editorial

The Kurdish Globe Erbil-8 Aug 07 Kurdistan’s delicate balancing of democracy Globe Editorial

The history of Kurdish national movements is the history of disunity, incoherence, and inner conflicts. These characteristics of Kurdish movements are some of the fundamental factors that have prohibited Kurds, at least since the end of the WWI, from establishing their own nation-state or gaining their independence. Despite the conjectural political opportunities presented randomly for the Kurds to escape from their chronically oppressed status to freedom throughout the 20th century, Kurdish political actors failed to utilize such opportunities for the interests of the nation.

This is still the case for north (Turkey) and east (Iran) Kurdistan. Fragmented political structure, ideological crisis, national-political confusion, and lack of a united national stand are the discernible tenets of the Kurdish national movements in these two parts, which lead, sooner or later, to their ultimate collapse.

Recent political experiences and developments in south Kurdistan (Iraq) are exceptions or a breakdown from the archetypal Kurdish mode of politics. It presents a model to be observed in other parts.

In spite of the decades of violent conflicts between the two main political parties in the south, both KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and PUK (Kurdistan Patriotic Union) managed to set aside their dark and bloody history to represent the Kurdish national cause in a united stand against too many odds. It is hard to imagine the Kurdish political status in the south today without such united representation during and following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

This unique experience, however, is not free from strain or shortcomings. Both organizations had failed to unite their separate local governments (Hewler and Sulaimania) and to take their seats in Kurdistan Parliament. They had also failed to establish a common committee to enter negotiations in Baghdad with the U.S. and Arab political organizations following the fall of Saddam’s regime to set up a new Iraq. Calling the Kurdistan Assembly and uniting the two separate Kurdish administrations came at a much later stage. Despite these inadequacies, southern Kurds gradually managed to strengthen their unity.

Last week’s KDP and PUK high-level meeting in Dukan resort ended in strategic declaration aimed to further their cooperation in order to secure national unity, application of law and human rights, and protection of national gains and security in Kurdistan. These are indeed historical steps. This meeting was also, reportedly, about resolving the issue of premiership for the Kurdistan Regional Government. According to the previous agreement between KDP and PUK, the KRG prime minister position was to be held by KDP for a two-year term and then by PUK for the another two-year term. Some sources indicate that PUK leadership widely supports the current PM, Nechirvan Barzani’s second term in office. It is argued that, due to the sensitive period that both Iraq and Kurdistan are going through, it is not necessary to go through redundant changes of premiership and Cabinet as the Kurds must focus on the burdensome issues of Kirkuk, the threat of Turkey, oil, other security-related issues.

Some critics argue that the declaration between KDP and PUK is endangering the democratic processes in Kurdistan. Certainly it would be absurd to put forward the view that Kurdistan is an ideal democratic country. It is far from that. This is, however, understandable given the historical, political, and economic conditions that Kurdistan is in. While there is no excuse to justify undemocratic procedures, nonetheless, it would be absurd to expect, in any democratic country, formation of government within pure theoretical democratic principles. After all, both PUK and KDP secured the majority of votes in the general elections and it is up to them how to form the Cabinet and select the prime minister. KDP and PUK must, however, appreciate that democratization of Kurdistan not only in words but most importantly in deeds is essential for the well being of the nation and insurance of the future. A delicate balance must be established between democracy and security, and between democracy and national interests and unity.

What is crucial, however, is the fact that both powerful Kurdish political organizations learned to share power, set aside their differences, and unite in common interests to further the Kurdish national cause. It is this experience that other parts of Kurdistan should follow.