Could the end game be determined by Kurdistan Region constitution or more bloodshed - By Shwan Zulal

Maidani Azadi (Sera Square) have been invaded once again after Fridays events and sporadic clashes between protesters and riot police as well as security forces were reported in and around the centre of Slemani(Sulaimaniyah). The protest turned violent on Friday leaving many to wonder what will happen next. Fifty people including many riot police were reported injured during the clashes and there are no figures for Saturday protest yet.

The protest in Kurdistan have been going on for over six weeks now and yet nothing has changed in the government. Neither senior resignations nor any effective legislations dealing with protesters demands have been forthcoming. It is a stalemate between the protesters, the government and the opposition parties. In the early phases of the protest, PUK (patriotic Union of Kurdistan) had discussions with the opposition Goran movement and the other parties and those discussions went nowhere. PUK, KDP(Kurdistan Democratic party) and Komal (Islamic Party) met Saturday and a senior PUK figure, Mala Bakhtyar, told reporters that the meetings were positive and could lead to good results.  He added: "PUK considers a unity government including all the above three parties a  plausible solution to deal with protesters 22 point demands". 

The question many people are asking in Kurdistan is, what next and what are the possible solutions? It is obvious that both PUK and KDP are trying to reach some political settlement with opposition parties in order to calm the unrest. However, their way of dealing with people grievances in the past has not been a long-term solution. Both parties have always tried to induce the other political parties in opposition by offering them senior ministerial positions and possibly financial benefits to their party or individuals involved. The approach has somewhat worked for them in the past, and it seems to be business as usual for them, as there are no evidence to the contrary this time around.

Goran would not be able to do such deals as it s future would depend on it, because the whole idea of Goran movement meaning change is to transform the system and stop the corrupt ways of the past.  If they make any deals taking part in such coalition government for few Jobs, they would lose the majority of their supporters. Simply because, most of their supporters are former PUK members who lost faith in the party and people who had enough of the current system, thus Goran participation in a government proposed by PUK and KDP would be political suicide. Meanwhile the other two large opposition parties of Komal and Yakgrtu, are both Islamic parties and their support base is entirely different from Goran. Their support is more ideological Islam and it is very likely that the majority of their supporters accept what the leadership decides. Therefore, it is possible for the Islamic parties to enter such coalition without losing many supporters.

Kurdish people do want a peaceful solution to the problems but the options are limited. Apart from the option of violence and a military cope, which the public in Kurdistan has no appetite for in the forcible future due to the political sensitivity of the region. There are potentially two possible ways that the issue could be resolved by using the constitution and the parliamentary system.

First option would be for the current government to resign and let KDP form a minority government where all the legislations can be scrutinised by the opposition which includ PUK. Obviously, this depends on the wiliness of both PUK and KDP to go ahead with it. This way KDP government cannot introduce arbitrary laws, as the current government have been doing and most importantly the budget. If KDP does not want to play ball then it means they are not serious about reform and election may follow. The problem with this option is that although the mechanism of the KRG(Kurdistan Regional Government) is there, it has very little authority on the militia, therefore unless the militia control is given up by both parties, it would not work. Moreover, KDP could have a problem governing Slemani and surrounding areas of PUK strong hold as the legacy of the two administrations still lives on. 

Second option would be forming a collation government without KDP, only because PUK has been more forward in accepting the need for reform, plus Goran and KDP have a chasm between them. PUK has shown more leniency towards the demands of the protester not because they are reformers but because their existence is in danger as most of the protests are taking place in their areas, and there is an alternative in Goran to them. Therefore a unity government could be formed with a majority, including PUK, Goran and possibly both Komal and Yakgrtu. In theory, this would be the better option to make sure that the overdue reforms seen through. Because of the multilateral nature of the coalition, it may just work. Nevertheless, the new coalition government may implement all the reforms thye introduce in the areas where PUK and Goran are strongest but the pitfall is whether KDP would facilitate same authority in its areas. This could lead to a partial breakup of the region administratively and geographically.

It is clear that there are no easy options for a peaceful solution to the current unrest in Kurdistan. The reality of the situation is that Erbil and KDP controlled areas of Kurdistan have not yet been able- due to suppression by KDP- or willing to rise up and demand change. This has made the situation very complicated and many people including some protesters are scratching their heads and wondering what the end game would be.

Patching up the problems and trying to make deals among politicians would not work this time and if it did, it won't last. People want change and want to do it peacefully, but the incumbent have made it clear that they are not going to give up power that easily and are not interested in changing the status quo. Kurdish public is sick of violence and do not want any more fighting, but irresponsible politicians and big egos are taking the nation closer to it.

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April 3, 2011
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