|SOUTH KURDISTAN (IRAQ) : Obstacle to Kurdistan’s development|
Kurdistan Tribune – 7.3.2012 – The so-called Strategic Agreement between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has become the main obstacle to a thriving Kurdish democracy. It has almost killed all the political and ideological differences between the two ruling parties. It has also silenced all the voices within the parties that want to speak out against corruption and violations of human rights and freedom of speech.
The agreement was a very important move by the two rivals in 1998 for the transition from civil war to a stabilized region. Poor Kurds, they fought when the two rivals announced war against each other; meantime, they celebrated the agreement which became the main reason to halt the fight. It was so strange: the arms with which the Peshmerges of each party had been shooting each other were eventually fired into the sky to celebrate the agreement.
Definitely it was the best move that KDP and PUK made in 1998 but, for now, the so-called strategic agreement is meaningless. It is the main obstacle to developing criticism of the current situation, diversity of individuals, individual freedoms and so on. The journalists, writers, activists, member of parliaments and even the members of the two ruling parties’ leadership – those who want reforms and changes in the political system – have expressed their anger against the strategic agreement because, quite simply, it has limited all their liberties.
A few weeks ago, about 50 members of parliament – including all the opposition fractions and some MPs from the PUK side – asked for an investigation into claims that income from the Ibrahim Khaleel main border point with Turkey was going to Nechirvan Barzani, the upcoming Prime Minister. The former director of the border is now in prison for making these allegations against Barzani. PUK MPs were deeply concerned about this for two main reasons: first it is a huge corruption and it is their job to oppose this; secondly they want to defeat Nechirvan Barzani from the very beginning. But, because of the strategic agreement, the speaker of parliament, Arsalan Bayiz, a PUK member, refused the demands of the 50 MPs.
In recent years, Aras Publishing House, a KDP-funded institution, launched a magazine (Bizaw). The magazine had a wide range of readers. To be quite honest, it was one of the best ever KDP-funded media outlets. But because of its criticisms of Jalal Talabani, the PUK asked the KDP to stop publishing it. The KDP had to comply because of the terms of the agreement.
Last year, during the passing of the Demonstration Law – which has a clause that obliges any gatherings to get permission from the government – some PUK members of parliament were completely against it. But they couldn’t speak out against the law, again because of the agreement with the KDP.
The Strategic Agreement is no longer necessary. The situation in which was born has completely changed. The fear of civil war has practically dissolved. The Middle East has stepped into a new era. The people of Kurdistan now have a different perspective of democracy and civil society. The new generation is seeking for a new sort of politics. The opposition parties have emerged. The impartial media is more active than the frozen media sphere. The agreement was for a time when the KDP and PUK didn’t trust each other. They had divided Kurdistan into utterly different regions. The fact that they were two armed rivals was the main reason that the public accepted all the regulations between them, even though the regulations were not and are not suitable for a blooming democracy.
This is the strategic agreement that is still continuing and has annihilated all the different voices, ideas and thoughts within the parties. This is so funny: if you ask any KDP or PUK politician why they don’t end the strategic agreement, they proudly answer that it has become the source of stability because the two ruling parties are not fighting each other anymore. Alas, two political parties portray themselves as democratic institutions for the region – and yet they cannot trust each other if there is no agreement?
The KDP and PUK do not believe in exchanging power or, more precisely, they cannot accept exchanging power peacefully. And so their only way to continue their reign is to maintain the agreement and divide up the positions and income of Kurdistan. The current political system has been established according to the strategic agreement: therefore, it is not a democratic one. If we want to have an institutionalized system – in which exchanging power is normal; the police, Peshmerge forces and Asayish forces belong to the government and not the political parties; the budget is a united one; there is an active parliament, a free media where journalists freely write what they want, the rule of law and a political system where decisions do not come from politburos – we should put an end to the so-called strategic agreement. Briefly, if we want to end the crises, we should put an end to the meaningless strategic agreement.