KRG resists dissolution and may opt for a reshuffle - By Shwan Zulal

Since 17 February, people in Kurdistan Region have come out on the streets demanding an end to corruption and inept government. Militia forces opened fire on protesters on the streets of the second largest city of Slemani (Sulaimaniyah). More shootings took place in other towns and cities resulting in death of nine people and over 200 injuries.  The government ignored protesters demands and the response was too slow. Protesters demands asking for a better government since the beginning have turned into calls on the president and his government to go. 

President Barzani promised reforms but none have been carried out so far. In March this year, the opposition parties came up with 22-point proposals to speed up reforms and introduce legislations for that purpose. Nevertheless, their demands were ignored and in the tri party meeting on Tusady, Goran, Komal and Yakgrtu have asked the government to resign and set up a new unity government, in order to carry out reforms and prepare for free and fair elections.
The emboldened opposition have raised pressure on the government after the continuation of the protests, but so far the response has not been positive and only defiant rhetoric can be heard from the incumbents. PUK spokes person, Azad Jundiani has told NTR:"Asking for the government resignation is red lines". He added:"This could be considered PUK approach to the opposition demands too and we will not have a meeting with KDP about it." Guessing from the tone of his comments, the main two political parties might be at odds about what to do next and how to get out of this standoff. 

It is clear that political dogma has overtaken rational thinking and national interest. PUK knows if the government is dissolved, they risk losing the premiership position to KDP and with it the once rising star of PUK, Prime Minister, Barham Salih. The PM is probably the only credible candidate to lead PUK in the future and take the party forward. Therefore, removing him from government in this manner will kill him off politically and further damage the prospect of revitalised PUK. Meanwhile, it appears that KDP leadership are squabbling among themselves as to how to shape the next government and who should be sacked and how to distribute the new jobs in government.

"A number of senior officials in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), such as ministers, mayors and director generals will be removed from office", reported Rudaw. The paper also names some of ministries, which could be subject to changes, but the source is anonyms therefore it may just be rumors. If this is part of the new imitative President Barzani has promised, it would be KRG's answer to the demands of the opposition. Barzani has called for a multilateral government including the opposition after the protest started but the opposition did not take his offer seriously. However, this time around the opposition may just take the offer on the table as the protests are waning and public opinions are divided. It may be that the opposition saw this coming and upped their demands from reform to resignation of government in order to negotiate a better deal, when and if they decide to take part in the new unity government.

While all the political maneuvering is going behind the scenes, the protest is continuing and they are demanding President's resignation. Today like the last 7 weeks, Maidani Azadi (Sera Square) is full of protesters and they say that they would not leave until their demands are listened to. All eyes are on the opposition at the moment and everyone is watching cautiously, because what they decide to do next could have a lasting effect on the future of the region.

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April 7, 2011
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