Votes are counted in Sulaimani after last Wednesday’s elections. Photo: Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – After a week of tensions and mutual accusations immediately following last week’s provincial elections, the Change Movement (Gorran) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have reached a preliminary agreement on finding a mechanism to work together in the city of Sulaimani.
The announcement came after Salahaddin Bahaddin, former leader of the Islamic Union (Yekgirtu), stepped in as mediator between the two rival groups, both of which claim Sulaimani as a stronghold.
Meanwhile, it was reported Tuesday that Gorran head Nawshirwan Mustafa and Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, a senior leader of the PUK, had instructed their parties to avoid inflammatory reports and tone down rhetoric against each other.
"Nawshirwan Mustafa has said that they would negotiate on the posts once the official results would come out to form provincial council and other administrative posts with everyone, including PUK," Hama Saeed Hama Ali, former Kurdistan Region MP, quoted Gorran's leader as saying in the meeting with Bahaddin.
The former Yekgirtu leader mediated between the rivals over the last two days, meeting senior leaders of Gorran and the PUK, who reportedly have decided to open a new page to keep the security of Sulaimani intact.
Rudaw sources said that ending the media war was one of the outcomes of the mediation, aimed at lowering tensions in Sulaimani city.
In the meantime, a well-placed source told Rudaw that, in Bahaddin’s meetings, “emphasis was placed on the peace of Sulaimani, and ways of transferring power peacefully."
According to Ali, the PUK has demonstrated it is prepared to start a dialogue and cooperation to end tensions with Gorran.
Fahmi Hama Tofiq, the chief of staff of the former Yekgrtu leader, also reaffirmed that Bahaddin had met first with Mustafa and then with Ahmed.
"Gorran and PUK agree that the tensions should not get out of control and the situation should be resolved through understanding," Tofiq said.
According to the preliminary results of last Wednesday’s provincial polls, Gorran has won over 350,000 votes, while the PUK trails with more than 253,000 votes in Sulaimani.
The PUK, which has controlled the local administration of Sulaimani since 1991, has already warned it would not accept Gorran's candidate, Haval Abu Bakir, as Sulaimani governor, because of alleged ties with the former Baath regime.
“There is no way that we agree to have a Baathist occupy the post of governor of Sulaimani. We have evidence that he and his father were members of the Baath party," said Mala Bakhtyar, a senior leader of the PUK.
Tensions between the two rival parties have been high since the PUK lost its standing as Kurdistan’s second-largest party in Kurdish legislative elections last September. Gorran, which was born after breaking away from PUK in 2009, took second place in the September polls.
Over the weekend, tensions between the two rose after Sulaimani security forces controlled by the PUK arrested six Gorran election observers, accusing them of attempting to tamper with ballots at a polling center in Sulaimani at gunpoint. Gorran dismissed the charges as "unfounded."
The Gorran observers were released on bail, after being shown “confessing” on the PUK television station. After being freed, they said their television statements had been made under severe threats and torture.