Even before the Coalition was announced, there were problems between the two ruling Kurdish parties the PUK and KDP. The PUK demanded that their leader Jalal Talabani return as Iraq’s president, and that he be given equal standing to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President and KDP head Massoud Barzani. The KDP countered by saying that they held more seats in parliament, and therefore should be in charge of the Coalition. The KDP and PUK were once on equal footing, but after the 2009 Kurdish elections, the PUK lost many of their supporters to the new Change List. Since then, the KDP has been asserting its dominance in regional affairs. It was no surprise then that they should demand leadership of the new Kurdish Coalition.
The other dispute was between the Change list and the KDP-PUK over the death of journalist Zardasht Osman. On May 4, 2010 Osman was kidnapped in front of his university in Irbil, and found a few days later in Mosul, shot in the head. The Change List began blaming the KRG for allowing the death, and some implied that the authorities were personally involved because of Osman's writings about the ruling parties. Demonstrations sprung up that were supported by the Change list as well. The KDP and PUK responded by saying that Osman was more of a student than a journalist, and blaming all of the protests on Change. The Change List has often complained about the KDP and PUK abusing their powers, and the arguing has expanded to all the major Kurdish parties trading accusations. The rhetoric has continued to escalate, and shows the divide between the old ruling parties and the upstart Change List.
The Kurdish Coalition has been put on hold for now. A meeting between all the members was cancelled, and the Change List recently accused Talabani of excluding them from a meeting held in Baghdad with other Iraqi parties on May 20. The Coalition is still likely to happen, but they have some serious internal differences to overcome. The Change List and two Islamic parties demanded that they be equal partners and involved in all decisions when the Coalition was first discussed. The PUK and KDP dispute however, shows that the KDP wants to be in the leadership role, which wont go down well with the others. The PUK and KDP are also very wary of the growth of the Change List, and see it as a threat to their continued power in Kurdistan. Luckily for the Kurds, the Arab parties are just as divided so the Kurdish Coalition has time to work out their problems before they go to Baghdad to put together a new ruling coalition. When they get there however, they will not be the kingmakers that they once were. The Sadrists have taken that position with their surprising showing in the March 2010 election, which gives them a central role within the major Shiite parties who are determined to hold onto the premiership. That means that the Kurds, even when they do come together, may not be able to get as many concessions as they hoped from their united front. They are still considered an important part in any new government, but they will be included as part of the finishing touches on a new regime, rather than playing a central role as they once did because the Arab parties are much stronger and better organized now to express the will of the majority of Iraq’s population.
AK News, “Demo in protest of the killing of a student in Erbil,” 5/9/10
- “Kurdistan Opposition Parties refuse to support the latest demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan,” 5/25/10
- “Official: Media dispute between KDP and Gorran may develop into standoff,” 5/15/10
- “Tensions Deepen between Goran and KDP,” 5/18/10
Alsumaria, “Kurdish Party blames Iraq President Talabani,” 5/22/10
Dagher, Sam, “Abducted Kurdish Writer Is Found Dead in Iraq,” New York Times, 5/6/10
- “Killing of Journalist Inflames Iraqi Kurds,” New York Times, 5/10/10
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, “Storm Gathers Over Slain Journalist in Iraqi Kurdistan,” 5/24/10
Taha, Yaseen, “Kurdish unity under threat,” Niqash, 5/20/10