Arif Taifoor (left), the head of the KDP Leadership Council for Sulaimani, speaks at a press conference with Qadir Hama Jan, a top PUK leader, in Sulaimani on November 1, 2018. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Without the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the second largest Kurdistani party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) will not form the KRG government, say party leaders.
Visiting the top PUK offices in Sulaimani and Halabja provinces on Thursday, Arif Taifoor, the head of the KDP Leadership Council for Sulaimani said the KDP will not form a government without the PUK.
"In forming the grand coalition government, we were damaged. The grand coalition government ended up with only the PUK and KDP staying it," Taifoor said.
Five parties, the KDP, PUK, Change Movement (Gorran), Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) formed the so-called broad-based coalition government following the parliamentary election in 2013.
However, the KIU, Gorran and Komal withdrew from the government saying they had lost faith in the government ability to reform or fight corruption.
The tripartite decision came after a series of anti-government protests which turned violent in mid-December calling for the full payment of delayed or reduced salaries, a fight against widespread corruption, and better basic services such as electricity.
"The [three parties] left us at a very unpleasant time when we were engaged in the fight against ISIS, when we were grappling with an economic crisis. Only the KDP and PUK stayed in the government and managed the government until we reached the election and even after elections," he said.
Iraq held a parliamentary election on May 12, while the Kurdistan Regional Government’s was on September 30.
“Whatever side decides to take part in the government must pledge or strike a deal with us that they must continue on with us during the crises, pleasant and unpleasant times, and do not leave us in the middle of the road,” added Taifoor.
Taifoor hoped for talks to form the government will start soon.
"We have formed a committee and they in the near will future open the door for talks with all the sides, above all, the PUK in order to learn their opinions," he said.
The PUK formed a its own committee, too. The PUK has repeatedly insisted that they will not accept to being in the next government proportionate to their seats.
The PUK is eyeing the top positions — deputy prime minister and speaker of the parliament.
But the KDP official believes otherwise, saying the next government has to be formed by seats.
"Until now, we are of the belief that the next government should be formed and posts distributed per election shares, and we think it is the best choice for each party to get their rights," Taifoor said.
The KDP secured 45 seats in the 111-seat parliament – leaving it 12 seats shy of an outright majority. The party will therefore need to enter a coalition agreement to form a government.
"We will not have a problem to meeting the quorum to form the government, but we need the PUK. Without the PUK, we cannot run the government alone. Thus, we are trying to reach an agreement with them,” implored Taifoor.
For his part, Qadir Hama Jan, a top PUK leader echoed the sentiment that the KDP and PUK must both be in the government as the reality requires it.
"The PUK understands the reality better. The PUK and KDP are two major parties. Per the PUK’s position on the Kurdistan and Iraqi levels, we are ready for talks with the KDP for forming the government with the KDP," he said.
He said the PUK will "actively" take part in the government on the basis of "a genuine partnership with the KDP."
Over the Baghdad posts, the KDP and PUK relations deteriorated, but the two sides have worked to ease them in forming the next cabinet.