June 8, 2009
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The Upcoming Election: Overcoming Corrupted Leadership in Kurdistan - By Rauf Naqishbendi

” I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed, confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice, government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people, the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas. They are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. “   President Barack Obama

Election is a democratic procedure, not a contest about the personalities and popularity of the candidates.  On both the local and national levels, elections should be a process of electing capable individuals who can manage the affairs of their constituents. Democracy is a new political phenomenon in Kurdistan . It started in the 1990s with the help of the United States , who provided protection for the Iraqi Kurds. Most importantly, it marked the end of Kurdish Civil War through peacemaking between the two Kurdish rival leaders, Barzani and Talabani. Even though Kurdistan of Iraq is anything but democratic, at least people are allowed to cast their vote for the political parties. This inquiry dissects the dangers facing Iraqi Kurds and how to obviate them, and the roadmap to true democracy and subsequent economic prosperity.

The prevailing power struggle between the two Kurdish rival leaders, Barzani and Talabani, has had the most devastating impact on the Kurdish cause for freedom and Kurdish recognition for more than four decades. These two leaders have divided Kurdistan. Each has his own cronies and separate militia armed forces. They have control over the appointment of all high-ranking government posts and other public offices.  Barzani and Talabani have an exclusive club, and nonmembers are deprived from well-paying public and government jobs and all other contracts granted by the government. In the meantime, the full budget for the Kurdistan region has been divided among the two leaders, from which they siphon every dollar they possibly can into their own coffers, leaving the general public deprived from their entitlement. In a nutshell, Barzani and Talabani have no concern for their people’s hardship and the people’s rights, using their power and political influence to advance their own personal and family interests.

People in Kurdistan must realize that social justice and economic prosperity cannot be achieved under the current circumstances, where unethical and corrupted leadership reign. Therefore, it is incumbent on the people to use every civilized means on every possible occasion to free themselves from leaders who are in utter disconnect with the people’s well-being and inspiration. 

In just about a month an election will be held. In the short run, the outcome of this election will not serve as a social contract whereby people will attain their rights as citizens, abrogating the leadership of corrupted looters. The first thing Kurds need to do is to cleanse their government from these corrupted officials who have used the blood of their people to advance their own interests. This is not a reform, but rather bringing the criminal elements of the society to justice.  These criminals should not be free with impunity but rather should be held responsible for all their actions, past and present.

It is imperative that the armed militia headed by the two leaders be submitted to the control of the regional government. In the past, the lives and blood of the members of these militia groups have been used frequently in the power struggle confrontations between the two leaders, and the same can happen again in the future should any confrontation arise between the two. Rendering these militia groups as a national army under the government, independent of political parties, will leave no blood for the power mangers to shed during their confrontations. With regard to the national budget, it should be under the control of government and used for the good of greater public, instead of being used by Talabani and Barzani as their own family money. The national budget should be used at the discretion of Parliament, to be appropriated to social programs according to the needs and priorities of the people, with measures in place to provide for accountability.

The problem with this election is that it does not address any of the aforementioned debilitating social, national, or economic problems. One might say the election is completely useless because the makeup of the parliament is predetermined and the rule of election is outlined and agreed upon by the old oligarchy. But there is one thing that might make a difference, and that is the reformist group headed by Nosherwan Mustafa, who has squeezed his group’s name into the list of the political parties. Even this will not immediately end the practices of the corrupted current leadership, but it promises affirmative changes upon the reformist group’s victory, but until then people must ask their leaders for transparency and accountability.

Should there be any glimpse of hope in this election, it is the one that is accompanies the reformist group. Their success may not immediately bring about the desired reformation and elimination of ubiquitous corruption, but it is a crucial development.  Their success will move Kurdistan toward a better future and more desirable leadership.  They will face nasty hurdles and many barriers in fighting the self-imposed leaders who have taken the people’s silence for granted. Overall, a vote for the reformist group is the right step in the right direction. Nevertheless, how well this group progresses in their reformation endeavors will depend on their perseverance in attaining their ideals. 

Rauf Naqishbendi’s
memoirs The Garden Of The Poets recently

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