Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Success - and a Test - for Democracy in Iraqi Kurdistan

The LA Times reports that the opposition party, Change, made a surprisingly strong showing in yesterday's elections for the Kurdistan Regional Government's elections - which suggests that the people do indeed have the possibility of opting for political change there. The possible down-side?

The outcome in Sulaimaniya is likely to strain relations between KDP and the PUK, who have jointly run Kurdistan for most of the last 18 years, most recently under a power-sharing agreement under which they split positions and jobs in the government on a 50-50 basis.

Now that the PUK seems to have lost much of its own support base, it will be regarded as a secondary in the alliance, said Hiwa Osman, Iraq director of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.

"The KDP is not going to give them 50-50," he said. "They will see them as the junior partner."
Before the afore-mentioned power-sharing agreement, the two parties (which essentially are the personal political fiefdoms of the two most powerful families in the region - the Talabanis and the Barzanis ) were usually at each other's throat - and I don't mean metaphorically speaking. During the 1990s, Saddam was still able to play them off against each other. The PUK is not going to accept lower-tier political status easily. The potential for Kurdistan to become unstable is quite real.

Or, might Mr. Maliki find it now opportune to resort to Saddam's old tactic?

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