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February 6, 2009
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After all these criticisms, what can be done? - By former PUK deputy leader Nawshirwan Mustafa

Translated by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli

After 16 years of self-rule, if you listen to any citizen in Kurdistan they cry loud and clear expressing their discontent and complaint.

They express discontent about the lack of services. They express discontent about the terrible performance of government offices. They express discontent about discrimination between a party-affiliated person and a citizen not affiliated to any political party. They express discontent about discrimination between one party and another. They complain about injustice. They complain about the behavior of senior officials.

This discontent is wide-spread among all the strata of [Kurdish] society and in all areas of life and expressed in variety of ways:

  • in writing: in the newspapers, magazines and electronic websites.
  • in words: from the mouth of the citizens broadcast on the video and audio media channels by the local, regional and national radios and TV stations.
  • in words: daily from the mouths of people in the streets, local meeting places, local roads and market place.
  • through movement, strikes and casual and on-off demonstrations
  • by striking and refusal to register their names for voting in the elections.

Day after day, the complaints and blames of people, protest, frustration, anger, criticism, sighs and prayers and even swearing and curses are increasing, accumulating and becoming a 'general phenomenon' and a ' social habit'. In spite of the continuous swelling of this dangerous phenomenon, the power-holders of the country neither do hear, nor see, nor take any serious step for solving it.

Here, a question arises: After all this criticism, after all this discontent, after all this injustice, then what and what can be done?

The answers are different and can be read in different scenarios:

  • some say: Give up (do nothing)
  • some say: be quiet
  • some say: try for reform
  • some say: try for change

Giving up:

Some people and they are not few, say corruption has become a system, the government bodies and institutions have been rotted by corruption beyond any solution. Let us give up and leave it to fate and time to see which direction the events of Iraq and Kurdistan take. [Their reasoning is this:]

·      The two powers: the two parties [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)] have usurped all the government bodies and institutions, wealth and finances of the country, the salaries and wages of hundreds of thousands of officials, employees, and pensioners. They control the fuel, land, property and food of the people. They can take them away and leave a family homeless and hungry on the street.

·      The two powers: have their own security force, police, peshmarga and secret organisations. They have control over the courts and prisons. Therefore people are scared of them and whatever we do will be useless. It will have no effect as they can suppress any movement very easily. Therefore we can do nothing and change nothing. Let us keep our heads low and wait and see!

This is a sort of losing morale, hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism. It is a sign of the destruction of the personality of Kurdish individual and the collapse of some social strata which , of course, the ruling system is responsible for its creation. But this is a temporary phenomenon. It will recede sooner or later.


Some say: the experience of Kurdistan regime has not stabilized yet. It is facing various threats. It is in the process of a political conflict with Baghdad and neighbouring countries.

Some even go further than this and say: there is a plot against the region, therefore we should keep quiet about the deficiencies and failures and ignore the ugly phenomena until this plot disappears.

This is an old excuse that has been repeated for 15 years. If there was some truth in it before, it now has no basis at all. There is no fear of an Arab army waging war from Baghdad, or fear of military attacks by Iran- Tehran and Turkey-Ankara for the military occupation in Kurdistan.

They may wage land and air bombardments of the border areas, they may create economic and political pressure. But these would not destroy the constitutional framework of Kurdistan region's bodies and institutions. When democratic countries face big political crises, they hold early elections in order to secure the support of their people. They create governments of national unity so that they can face the crises with a united internal front. But because Kurdish power has monopolized all the powers for itself, and by so doing has alienated the people, is always sacred of elections and any other democratic change. They try to keep power in their hands at whatever cost and not to lose control. To achieve this aim they frighten people with external threat. They try to keep the people of Kurdistan in constant fear and anxiety to make them think that without them Iraq, Iran and Turkey will eat them up.

These excuses are made by some people who have benefited from corruption in order to mobilise the public opinion to support the political power and maintain the status quo.

Reform efforts

Some say the best way is to try to reform the power within the power and by the power. This route, they say, is the easiest and safest solution. It is safer because it does not lead to political and social tension and armed confrontation.

It is easier because it is a legal route. The constitutional bodies and institutions can, within a legal process, achieve reform quietly and slowly.

But this can happen only when certain requirements are met:

·    The leadership of the two parties , among them in particular the leaders of both parties need to have transformed their will to reform from words to will to act and implement. They should prohibit their political bureaus and their offices, their party centres and branches, from daily interfering in all the institutions of legislative, executive and judiciary powers as well as in the market, universities, police and security. Mechanism of punishment should be established for all those who contravene this decision, whatever ranks they may have.

·      Council of Ministers should meet weekly. The ministers should present and discuss their programmes. They should consult and coordinate with each other, be aware of each other’s plans and take each other into account. The head of the council should monitor the implementation of their plans.

·      Parliament to act freely. The MPs should meet their constituencies and allow them to talk about their problems and needs freely. The MPs should come out of the cage of party fractions. If it were necessary, new fractions and new alliances (parliamentary groups) should be established. They should carry out the principal tasks of parliament:

§ Bring the ministers to account and if necessary withdraw confidence in them.

·    Debate the budget of the region and disclose its details to people

·      Debate the daily problems and needs of people and work to find solutions for them in cooperation with the government

·      To enhance the power of the judiciary and clean it up from incompetent and irrelevant people. [Courts] should open their doors for the complaints and legal action of the citizens. No group or authority should be able to interfere in their procedures and decisions.

·      To enhance the Office of Financial Supervision with professional experts. They should have delegated power to investigate all contracts, without exclusion and covering up, to review the region’s budget and protect public finances from waste and disclose irregularities to people.

This sort of reform can in fact be achieved only by two people: They are Mam [honorific] Jalal [Talabani] and Kak [honorific] Mas’ud [Barzani]. Mam Jalal is President of Iraq and at the same time he is the general secretary of PUK. Kak Mas’ud is President of Kurdistan Region and at the same time president of KDP. But it seems that these two leaders do not believe in this reformist route. Therefore waiting longer for them is in vain. We must look for another solution.

Endeavour to change

Those who talk about change have different approaches and suggest different solutions and scenarios from the attempt of bringing about change within the political parties to revolutionary action and armed fighting, to urban mass uprising and boycotting elections, to competing in elections and other ideas.

Attempting change within the political power

Some say change cannot be effected solely through criticism and writing. To be able to change there must be participation in the powers and then everyone try to bring about change and reform from their own position.

Attempting change within the three powers: the legislative- the National Assembly, the executive- the Council of Ministers and the judiciary – the courts. This means attempting change within the political power. However the MPs, the ministers and the judges are good and reform or change-seeking people, within the current conditions, due to the political system that is dominant in the country, this is something that is not achievable. These powers are not the real powers of the country. Behind them there is another power that manages these powers and rules the country and this is ‘the ghost power’, which is the political party and its apparatchik within its leadership. Therefore we must not build any hope on this way to change.

Attempting change within the political parties

In this country the political party has entered every vein and muscle of the sate power. Party forms government. A good political party forms a good government. A bad political party forms a bad government. Therefore to change a party to better will lead to change the government in the direction of reform.

Change in the political party can be made in the conferences and meetings of its higher bodies. At the party conference it would be possible to change the programme and constitution of the party as well as its leadership. But the experience of the two general conferences of PUK and the experience of the elections of its organs and the elections that took place in the two conferences, have clearly demonstrated that building hopes on any free and clean elections, away from plotting and use of threats and promises, will not have the required result for creating a radical change in the party.

The same dominant faction in the party will use every means, including even the use of the gun, to protect its survival, positions, powers and privileges. It will silence different discourses and dialogues, and suppresses different ideas and opinions and the reform and change wings.

Political party, since the uprising [of 1991], has lost its ability for a true change and renewal because of the monopoly of its powers, achievements, finances and privileges by a dominant strata. It is not capable of renewal. Therefore, any attempt for change through this road will lead to a dead-end.

Attempting change without political party

Is a political party an end or a means to an end?

If it is an end in itself, then it should stay as it is. If it is a means then it is possible to change and if it lost its use, it can be disbanded. If it became a barrier, it can be replaced by an alternative.

Of course, a political party is only a means for achieving an end, therefore it must correspond to the aim. It is possible that for a long stage, the end, the aim, will remain unchanged and even sacred. But the means must change according to time and place to pave the way for the achievement of the aims. When the means, that is the political party, cannot achieve the aims, or become a barrier to achieving them, then it will lose the necessity of its existence and survival.

The truth of this theory has been proved across the world. It is also true for Kurdistan’s situation. In Kurdistan the aims of the Kurds and their movement have not changed for the last hundred years. But in all the stages, the means which is the political party or any sort of organisation, has changed especially if it had failed to go forward in line with the change and development of Kurdish movement. But now in Kurdistan, after the political party left the stage of revolution and entered the stage of governing, ‘devotion to political party’ is, among those who have benefited from the party and among some of those who live in past memories, about to become an aim and belief. The past glory of a party can never justify its present corruption and dysfunction.

Therefore, as long as it is not possible to achieve change within the political party, and as the political party itself has become a barrier to change, and as the political party is not an aim in itself, we must seek change outside the political party.

To change the persons or change the system

Some say: if this person is dismissed and replaced by that person , if some people in the leadership of the party were removed and replaced by others, if some ministers in the cabinet removed and some other persons made ministers…, then the situation would change and reform would start.

In fact this is no more than naïve optimism.

The [present] system of the management of the country is based on some pillars including:

  • The confusion between the party and the institutions of legislative, executive and judiciary powers
  • Total control over finances, security, police and peshmarga
  • Darkening (hiding information about] the budget and financial, economic and commercial affairs.
  • Darkening (hiding information about) the political relations between the region and abroad

Because of this reality, the individual, however a powerful and strong-willed character he may be, and whether he is good or bad, is a member of [party] leadership or a minister, he might have some impact on his own performance, but he cannot have impact on the system as a whole. That is why in the current conditions of Kurdistan, the crisis has surpassed being the problem of individuals and personalities. The situation of Kurdistan cannot improve by changing individuals because the general system of  the country does not correspond and is contrary to the needs and wishes of the majority of the people and does not correspond to the national interests of the Kurdish people.

If the issue is change, and if the change must be in the management system of the country, then several principal, but complicated and troublesome, questions would arise and each of these questions have different answers by different individuals and groups:

First question: How can change be achieved?


·      By using violence: coup, revolt, urban mass uprising

·      By civil opposition: strikes, demonstrations, boycotting elections, fighting back against the officials

·      By democratic competition: elections at all levels

Second question: By what means can change be achieved?

·      By setting up a new political party

·      By forming a broad coalition (front) of organized opposition

·      By creating a syndicate alternative

·      By forming different and competing list in the elections

Third question: What needs to be changed?

·      The system of the country’s administration

·      Establishing the rule of law

·      Separation of state powers

The questions are difficult but the answers are even harder!

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