Sunday, November 7, 2010

Change List Quits Kurdish Coalition

On October 30, 2010 it was announced that the Change List quit the Kurdish Coalition. The cause was the debate over a new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) provincial election law, and disputes with the major Kurdish parties.

The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of KRG President Massoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) run by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani want a new Kurdish Election Commission to be formed to run the balloting, and for the bill to be passed by a 50%+1 vote in the regional parliament. The opposition, made up of the Change List, the Kurdistan Islamic Group, and the Kurdistan Islamic Union, has been calling for the existing Iraqi Election Commission to the run the upcoming polling in Kurdistan, and for the bill to be passed by a 2/3 vote. They are afraid that a Kurdish Commission could be open to political manipulation and fraud by Barzani and Talabani, and want to have the ability to influence the passing of the law. The opposition held up several sessions of the Kurdish legislature over this issue. 

In addition, Change has accused the KDP and PUK of ignoring their demands and prosecuting their followers. In August 2009, the Change list delivered a letter to the ruling parties calling for the promotion of democracy, amending internal policy, institutionalizing the armed forces, reducing political influence over the government, reforming the budget process, and promoting freedom of speech. Change also continues to claim the PUK and KDP are firing their followers from the government for their political affiliation. When the Kurdish Coalition was formed, the ruling parties agreed to implement Change’s demands, and stop the harassment of its followers who are in the KRG bureaucracy. 

The Coalition was formed in April after the March parliamentary election. It originally consisted of the KDP, the PUK, the Change List, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group. Together they had 57 seats in the new Iraqi parliament.

Former PUK co-founder and ex-Deputy Secretary General Nishurwan Mustafa formed the Change list in 2009. In the July 2009 Kurdish parliamentary balloting Change received 25 out of 111 seats. It won most of its votes from people disillusioned with the ruling parties and former PUK members. The KDP and PUK see Mustafa as a threat, and have been using a carrot and stick approach with him since he created Change. They have kicked out Change members from the regional government, harassed it during the 2009 KRG election, while at the same time joining with it to create the Kurdish Coalition, agreeing to its reform package, and promising to include it in decision making.

The young alliance between Change and the PUK and KDP has now broken apart. The two have had nothing but disputes in Change’s short history. Problems between the parties led to dragged out talks in forming the Kurdish Coalition, and the suspending of several Kurdish parliamentary sessions. That eventually led Mustafa to lead his party out of the Coalition. He now stands alone however, as the other two Islamist Kurdish groups have agreed to stay with the PUK and KDP. That will mean Change will be an afterthought in any new ruling coalition put together, and it could become isolated in the KRG parliament. Mustafa obviously wants his party to be a force in both regional and national politics. This move could backfire as Change does not have the status yet to stand-alone and be influential.


Ahmed Hevidar, “Opposition and Barzani reached a deal, says source,” AK News, 10/14/10
- “Update: Spat over electoral bill defers Kurdish parliament session,” AK News, 10/13/10

Osman, Twana and Zagros, Roman, “Ex-Kurdish Leader Takes On Old Allies,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 11/12/08

Saifaddin, Dilsahd, “Gorran announced withdrawal from the KBC,” AK News, 10/30/10

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