October 10, 2009
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South of Kurdistan: the political earthquake will change the political map Part III - By Mufid Abdulla

Nawshirwan Mustafa’s message through some of his followers to PUK leader Talabani and his second in command Kusrat Rasul is that he decided to set up his own political group due to the failed reform of the PUK which he was no longer willing to help. That was the beginning of broken talk between Talabani and Nawshirwan Mustafa at the end of February 2009. Talabani was adamant that he would not bow to Nawshirwan’s political pressure and instead decided to take a gamble this time. Talabani decided to take over the election campaign himself and manage the whole political rally under his own auspices.

The campaigns started long before the IHEC’s set date of 24/05/09. Ministers and members of the two leading political parties began campaigning for their parties. At the same time, Gorran waited very patiently to gather all their ideas and get their tactics under control and under that basis they laid out their campaign. Nobody should doubt the ferocity of the campaign. Talabani, in his mid-70’s, was travelling all over Kurdistan in the middle of the hottest month, showing signs of tiredness, anger and frailty. By the end of his campaign he concluded that his situation was not as he thought and that was the reason he decided vigorously to bribe his followers for votes. The PUK has gone to war with all democratic voices including the media. The main Kurdish media agencies provided the oxygen required for the opposition to continue his campaigning. The campaign was more extensive than previously anticipated. Talabani could not understand why they were so unpopular, yet instead of communicating with the public on issues like education, health, work and pension, transport, they paid out millions of dollars to their members and followers, gave pistols as presents, gave out first class cars etc. The Swedish Parliament then found out about the PUK intentions during the election.

The conduct of the KDP and PUK were very poor, they could not convince anybody, even their followers, about the corruption, the nepotism and the power of tribes and why they should belong to the year 2009. In many ways this was a great achievement for the opposition movements. Out of most of the opinion polls, five of them which included the PUK media, predicted a landslide victory for the opposition The Change Movement and a defeat for the Kurdistani List (PUK and KDP). Despite the population of Kurdistan not being as concentrated in big cities as in some other countries, still the independent polls managed to get a true picture of peoples reactions.

If the electorate does not love the Kurdistani List anymore as the polls suggest, the best hope seems to be that they can never love those Barzanies and Talabanies. I have talked to a lot of PUK supporters to get a feel for their confidence and one of them described Talabani as a “dead man walking” and another described members of the PUK politburo as the “last days of Hitler bunker mentality”.

People in Halabja reacted very badly to Talabani’s visit. Talabani felt the severity of the situation and used the heat-wave as an excuse for the fact that his speech did not continue for more than 10 minutes. Of course in Halabja, the Islamic Union came first, followed by Gorran second. Talabani had a similar reception in Ranya, Darbandi Xan etc. During that election the PUK acted as a despotic party and not as a political organisation. The PUK during that election acted as a state military junta not a modern urban people’s party. The PUK intimidated and jailed their members for changing sides. The election parade was largely coordinated by Gorran and Nawshirwan Mustafa.

During this election campaign, PUK followers tried very hard to embroil Gorran supporters into a futile war and skirmishes. The PUK followers and supporters tried to distort the image of a democratic campaign and ignite the civil war. The PUK thought in that way they could blame Gorran supporters and stop the democratic election. To prove the above, one night the Minister of Peshmarga, Sheik Jaffar and heavy- handed bodyguards attacked KNN television representatives in Sulaymania with light injuries. Gorran decided to not respond for that reason.

The day before the election, tempers were short, nerves fraught and it was only 8.30pm on Saturday. The political rally by Gorran was attended by almost thirty thousand people and Nawshirwan Mustafa’s interrupted speech acted as evidence that all security codes had been broken by PUK intelligence services.

Obviously, the cost of the election was massive for the Kurdistani List. Some reliable sources close to the PUK leadership estimated that election expenses amounted to 20 to 25 million dollars. Personally, I am not surprised about this. For example, despite the fact that the village near Bazian consists of only 45 houses, the PUK gave away $15 000 and the KDP gave away $20,000. Official figures from The Change List declared that their total amount for election spending came to $250 000. For the PUK indeed images of death are ubiquitous. The PUK leadership knew the severity of the state and that is the reason for their leaning towards fraud and ballot rigging …


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