SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – A Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leadership meeting has proposed March 5 for the party to hold its congress following the death of the party’s founder Jalal Talabani in October.
On Thursday, the party’s Central Council which acts like a parliamentary body of the PUK held a meeting led by acting head Kosrat Rasul, and was also attended by members of the higher Leadership Council.
The leadership council now has 10 days to make a decision regarding the proposed date, Bakhtiyar Shaweys, a member of the Central Council said following the meeting.
An earlier meeting of the Leadership Council set March 5 as the date to hold the congress in a January meeting, but announced that the tentative date could be further discussed.
Several senior PUK officials unsuccessfully pushed for the party’s congress to be held no later than the end of January, including Qubad Talabani the son of the party’s founder and also the Kurdistan Region’s deputy prime minister. He is said to have been tipped for a senior position within the party
The PUK has faced a number of crises in the past year including the death of Jalal Talabani, who was the president of Iraq from 2006-2014, the departure of the party’s second deputy leader Barham Salih, and the loss of the oil-rich Kirkuk to the Iraqi forces, a party-stronghold.
Following the October 16 events that saw Kirkuk and other disputed or Kurdistani areas fall to the Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, Mala Bakhtiyar warned then that the Kurdistan Region faced a real threat of a civil war
. He blamed the military loss on some PUK elements.
Qubad Talabani also stated in November that the Kurdistan Region and the PUK faced an existential threat
that required the party to reunite and hold a congress at the earliest time to resolve its challenges.
Among others, Rasul, the acting head, blamed the Kirkuk fall on some PUK elements. The party’s rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), also made similar accusations against some members of the Talabani family including Bafel, the eldest son of the party’s founder.
The Talabani family has denied the accusations, and instead blamed the loss on holding the Kurdish referendum on September 25 despite the opposition from Iraq, neighboring countries, and international allies.
No PUK or KDP official has made accusations against Qubad Talabani over the Kirkuk crisis. He has worked closely with the KRG’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, from the KDP, for the last four years since the foundation of the current KRG cabinet in 2013.
The PUK is heading towards the party’s congress while it is facing Iraq’s parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12, and general elections in the Kurdistan Region which are believed to occur after the Iraqi election.
He said that the PUK will keep grip on security forces even if defeated in elections, adding that no one in the Kurdistan Region or Iraq is able to “disarm” the party.
The two ruling parties, the PUK and the KDP, have a strong influence over the security forces and the Peshmerga.