Qubad Talabani. Photo: AFP
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Qubad Talabani denied that he has been offered leadership of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to replace his ailing father, and a senior party leader confirmed that the succession issue has still not been discussed internally.
The PUK has been rudderless since Jalal Talabani, its leader who is also Iraq’s president, suffered a stroke in December and was flown to Germany. He has not been heard from since. The party is in serious crisis after losing in last month’s polls to the breakaway and novice Change Movement (Gorran).
Ahead of a party plenum on Thursday, social media networks were buzzing that the PUK leadership had been offered to Qubad Talabani. But he told Rudaw hours before the plenum opened that, the “PUK’s secretary general cannot be appointed on social media networks; that issue has not been discussed at any of the official meetings yet.”
Ahead of the plenum, Qubad had said he would give his opinion over the succession issue if it was raised at the meeting. He said that only the party convention can discuss that subject and therefore, “We will wait and see what the PUK’s next convention will decide.”
Asked whether he would accept the post, he said: “If the convention makes such a recommendation, then I will decide on it.”
Qubad, 36, served as the representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Washington DC until last year, when he returned home to become minister of coordination and follow-up.
Saadi Ahmad Pira, a senior PUK leader and member of its political bureau, said during a break at the plenum that Talabani’s replacement had not been mentioned in the course of the day.
“Up to now, Talabani’s replacement has not been discussed and I haven’t heard anything in that regard,” he said. “Let us enter the plenum and see what will be discussed and decided there.”
Last week, an online Rudaw poll showed that 60 percent who voted online believed Barham Salih, PUK’s deputy secretary general and former prime minister, was the most suitable person to lead the party.
Salih has been an outspoken critic of his party’s shortcomings and has urged his fellow leaders to review their policies and choose a new path forward.
Whether it is Salih or Talabani’s son that may emerge as the future leader of the PUK, the old guard seems to have realized the need for new blood to lead the party.
Adil Murad, head of PUK’s central committee, told Rudaw last week that his party’s older leaders should take a step back and give the young leaders a chance.