Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Iraq: Mar ‘09

IWPR report said to highlight political instability in north and put pressure on leaders to introduce reforms.
By IWPR staff
An IWPR story about the emergence of a third political force in Iraqi Kurdistan could put pressure on the authorities to introduce more reforms, an independent Kurdish legislator said


IWPR Iraq reported in March that a new political coalition was expected to run in Iraqi Kurdistan’s upcoming parliamentary elections. The coalition, which has yet to be formally announced, is thought to be led by a breakaway faction from the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, PUK.


The report, Third Force in Kurdish Politics Mooted , highlighted the turmoil inside the PUK and the frustration of some citizens with the party, which along with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, has led Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991.


Spearheaded by Nawshirwan Mustafa, a populist media owner and one of the PUK founders, many believe the new faction could challenge the dominance of the PUK and KDP.


IWPR Iraq was the first news organisation to confirm that the rival list will be formed. The story was republished by two of the leading newspapers in Iraqi Kurdistan, Hawlati and Rozhnama. Rozhnama is owned by Mustafa.


“The report further paves the way for change,” said Nouri Talabani, an independent deputy in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s parliament. “It will also be a pressure for reform and reassessment.”


The PUK and KDP have been accused of not providing services, and curbing rights and freedoms, including cracking down on journalists. Corruption is also a serious concern.


“Criticism and new perspectives always make officials review themselves, especially when elections approach, because they don’t want to alienate voters,” said Nouri Talabani.


Hawlati editor-in-chief Kamal Rauf Raheem said the IWPR report provided an accurate picture of the political problems that beset Iraqi Kurdistan.


He said that although Kurdish leaders have tried to portray Iraqi Kurdistan as a thriving and developing democracy, “the ….region is not a model for Iraq”.


Salar Basira, a political science lecturer at Sulaimaniyah University in Iraqi Kurdistan, said the IWPR article made important points.


“Reform is needed.. human rights are not necessarily protected and democracy has not been exercised the way the regional authorities claim. All of these issues are raised in the [IWPR] story,” he said.


While Nouri Talabani felt the article would concentrate officials’ minds, he was sceptical that local leaders will introduce substantive reforms anytime soon.


He said he expected them to make only promises in advance of the elections.


Nonetheless, the independent Kurdish MP encouraged IWPR to continue probing the political situation in Iraqi Kurdistan.


IWPR Iraq’s reporting “undoubtedly enlightens people about the situation”, he said. “It makes them more aware and vigilant”.

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