Barham Salih (R), with the PUK’s Hero Ibrahim Ahmed (L) and Kosrat Rasul Ali (C). Photo: Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Dr. Barham Salih, the now-former second deputy leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has finally bid farewell to the PUK. After distancing himself from the PUK over the past three years, Salih registered his own political entity on Saturday to run in this fall’s general elections.
He has not formed a new political party, but a new entity called the Coalition for Democracy and Justice.
“Barham Salih will not be doing what Nawshirwan Mustafa did. He will not form a party,” a member of Salih’s new political entity said.
Bakir Sidiq, a member of Salih’s coalition, explained they are trying to find new solutions to the Region’s political problems. “Corruption, the non-independence of the rule of law, political imbalance, and other problems led to the creation of this list, making us look for solutions in this way. That is why Barham wants to serve the political process in this way,” he explained.
Eight years ago, Nawshirwan Mustafa, the previous deputy leader of the PUK, declared a list for the elections. He had broken away from the PUK three years earlier. Mustafa ultimately formed a new party – Gorran.
The PUK is now seeing a repeat with a deputy leader who has been passive in his affiliations with the party for the past three years. The conditions under which these two splintered from the PUK differ though.
“Dr. Barham doesn’t work that much on taking PUK officials with him. Unlike Gorran, he doesn’t want PUK leaders to become the face of his entity,” said a PUK official who supports Salih, speaking anonymously. The official said a number of PUK officials will be supporting Salih.
“The coalition will not break apart from the PUK history. There will be a chance for it to have shared work with the PUK whenever the PUK gets its house in order and resolves its problems,” the official explained.
According to information from a person close to Salih, no PUK leadership member or politburo member has so far submitted a resignation letter to the party.
“PUK officials close to Barham might not necessarily support his entity,” the source added. “No PUK leader is among the names submitted to the commission to create a list, but PUK officials might join it in the coming days.”
On Sunday, one day after registering his list with the electoral body
, Salih submitted his resignation letter to PUK’s first deputy leader Kosrat Rasul Ali.
His resignation is expected to be accepted.
“The PUK leadership or politburo will not meet to decide this. His request will be accepted because he has created an entity and he has willingly resigned rather than submitting this to the PUK as a pressure card,” said PUK leadership member Farid Asasar.
Salih doesn’t want his entity participating in the November 1 presidential and parliamentary elections alone. According to information that Rudaw has obtained, he has spoken to other parties.
After PUK leader Jalal Talabani fell ill, suffering a stroke in 2012, the party’s situation remained unstable with leadership disputes. Some leaders, including Kosrat Rasul Ali and Salih, formed a new entity last year called ‘decision-making center.’ Rivalries calmed down after Rasul reached an agreement with the party-wing led by Talabani’s wife Hero Ibrahim Ahmed. They tried to make Barham Salih break his silence, but he refused to do so.
PUK politburo spokesperson Saadi Pira spoke to Rudaw a few minutes before news of Barham Salih’s resignation broke, saying, “Dr. Barham is a prominent political figure who has had no activities within the PUK for the past two years. He should choose either the PUK or his entity, should he form an entity and the commission accept it. He will have no connection to the PUK if he forms an entity.”
Aso Ali, a former PUK leadership member, said the situation in the PUK is complex: “Declaring this entity is the declaration of the failure of the decision-making center. The PUK’s decision-making center is extremely weak nowadays. Because of the party’s conditions, everyone is trying get things done for himself.”
The PUK, already weakened by the breakaway Gorran that took more than half of its votes, is now wondering what effect Salih’s move will have on the party. It is also unknown if Salih could draw votes from Gorran’s fan base, as well as PUK’s.
Aso Ali thinks Salih’s entity will not make much difference. “Gorran didn’t achieve results because of its political mistakes, and I think this will have a weaker result,” he said.
Parliamentary and presidential elections in the Kurdistan Region are due to be held on November 1. The High Elections and Referendum Commission has begun registering candidates. The deadline has been extended to September 28.
After registering with the commission, Salih tweeted his pleasure at the approval of his entity that he said would “promote good governance & accountability.”
Bakir Sidiq, member of the Coalition for Democracy and Justice, said: “Barham will not be against the PUK or any other party like Nawshirwan. Rather, he will be trying to restore the political process to its real work through his programs.”