PUK and Gorran officials signing a cooperation agreement in Sulaimani in May 2016 with PUK leader Jalal Talabani seated in between. Photo: Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region— Nearly one year after the landmark cooperation agreement between the two rivalling Kurdish factions, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Change Movement (Gorran), the parties’ expanding rifts in both Sulaimani and Erbil threaten to unravel a deal which was planned to further unify the two parties ahead of the upcoming elections.
Recent frictions between the two parties have only deepened over the past weeks as Gorran’s acting Governor in Sulaimani Sardar Qadir resigned from office in protest against what he called lack of cooperation, and PUK’s increasing partnership with the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to reopen the region’s parliament which has been closed since October 2015.
The parliament was shut down after the KDP removed its Gorran Speaker Yousif Muhammad in retaliation for deadly riots that hit KDP offices in Sulaimani province nearly 2 years ago. The KDP has accused Gorran of masterminding the protests that killed several KDP members and wounded dozens more.
The KDP has since opposed the return of the former speaker and asked the parties to reopen the parliament by electing a new speaker, something Gorran has insistently opposed.
“If the parliament is reopened while the (current) speaker is removed, it will be against the agreement,” between the PUK and Gorran, said Mahwi Muhammad, head of Gorran office in Sulaimani referring to ongoing negotiations between the PUK and KDP to reopen the assembly.
“We expect the PUK to officially announce the end of the agreement. It is true half of the PUK have opposed the deal but we still expect the other half to implement the agreement,” he added.
The polemical PUK-Gorran pact sent shockwaves in Kurdistan Region when it was announced in May last year whose implementation could have upset the political order in the country dominated by the powerful KDP and its strategic alliance with the PUK.
The deal would most notably allow PUK and Gorran to enter general elections on a joint ballot and consequently increase their chances to form the next Kurdish cabinet, which if implemented, would have diminished KDP’s dominance over government bodies since the 1990s.
Gorran members have accused PUK of not “honouring” the deal not only in the parliament controversy, but also in Sulaimani province where both parties have the bulk of their power bases.
According to Gorran of nearly 840 provincial posts in Sulaimani and Halabja, the party holds only 33 offices.
As of Wednesday, PUK’s Omar Ahmad Amin is acting as Sulaimani’s governor, which is expected to further undermine the agreements between the two factions.