PUK list leader Qubad Talabani rallies a crowd in Raniya, Sulaimani Province, Kurdistan Region on the first day of official parliamentary election campaigning, September 11, 2018. Photo: Rudaw TV
RANIYA, Kurdistan Region — From the city renowned for historical uprisings, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's list head Qubad Talabani promised that the Kurdistan Region is on the brink of something during the party's first election campaign rally on Tuesday.
“We are announcing the beginning of a new phase from here, an uprising for peace, creating employment opportunities, delivering better services to the people of Kurdistan," said Talabani in traditional Kurdish attire.
The PUK is trying to re-establish its position as the second-largest party in the Kurdistan Region after the Change Movement (Gorran) surpassed them in 2013.
“The Kurdistan in which we currently live is not the Kurdistan our ancestors strived for. I hear daily from our citizens that they are tired of instability in the Kurdistan Region, concerned about the rate of poverty and the increasing lack of job opportunities for the youth," he said.
Under the slogan 'Towards a more developed Kurdistan,' current Kurdistan Regional Government deputy PM Talabani has championed a more transparent and accountable government that is responsive to constituents.
“We have come a long way, achieved many goals, but there is much for us to do to meet the level of your expectations," he said.
Talabani is leading the PUK list. He is the youngest son of the late PUK founder Jalal Talabani. The PUK is yet to hold its next congress to select a successor. In the meantime, strongman Kosrat Rasul is acting party head.
The PUK fared better than expected in Iraq's parliamentary election on May 12, finishing second among Kurdistani parties. The Kurdistan election in Sulaimani is seen as a referendum on parties, which include the PUK, Gorran, and upstart New Generation. The newly founded Coalition for Democracy and Justice will not participate in the election, according to founder and former KRG PM Barham Salih, who was a longtime PUK member.
“We will work harder to develop social justice and national reconciliation in order to ensure a better and more peaceful life for our people," Talabani explained.
The loss of oil-rich Kirkuk in the events of October 16 was a blow to the KRG and the PUK specifically, as the province has been a PUK powerbase and had a PUK governor, Najmaldin Karim, who was sacked by Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi and replaced by an acting Arab governor.
“We want to resolve the problem of oil with Baghdad," said Talabani.
He has recently been more responsive on social media, posting jokes, talking sports and interacting with Kurdistan's massive youth population.
“The most valuable resource in our country is our people," Talabani underscored.
Youth unemployment and underemployment is a major issue in Sulaimani. Many are forced between moving to Erbil for better job opportunities or remaining with few job prospects.
“We can create more than 50,000 job opportunities by reopening 2,000 factories that are currently closed and encouraging more factories to open," promised Talabani.
The PUK has refuted reports that it has called for a delay in the election which have already been delayed 11 months after the uncertainty of the Kirkuk events.
The Kurdistan Region is set to hold a parliamentary election on September 30. Official campaigning runs until September 28.
KRG Election 2018: Full process, party explainer