The Kurds in Iraq have been running their government since the uprising in 1991 against the dictatorial regime Of Sadam Hussein. It means that they have been governing their territory for about 26 years. Throughout this period of time, this region has experienced many political and military crises. The main actors in these crises are those political parties running or dominating the Kurdish region, specifically both parties the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP), and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
After the collapse the Sadams’ regime in 2003, thanks to coalition forces under the leadership of the USA, all major Iraqi opposition parties against the regime started working together to establish a new Iraqi state. In 2005 for the first time, Iraqis saw their first elected president, who was Jalal Talabany from the PUK party. In the same year after establishing federalism, people in the Kurdish region elected their president Masud Barazani from the KDP party, who is still in office.
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Both governments of the PUK in Sulaimani and the government of the KDP in Erbil were reunified. Since 2003, the Iraqi state has been experiencing political and security instability. While the Kurdish region has been relatively stable in comparison to the rest of Iraq, daily terror attacks by Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups have swept Iraq and still continue until today. Once, it was said that the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) should be an example of success for other Iraqi territories, should they want to rebuild their country again. But today, on the contrary, if we closely look at the status quo in the Kurdistan region, we can see many unsuccessful examples of bad governance. Here are some of the most influential factors that have become main obstacles to developing political processes in Kurdistan:
Political Parties & Their Negative Role in Political Process
As mentioned above, the Kurdish region is controlled by the two main parties PUK and KDP. This domination relates to their partisan role, which they had at the time of fighting against the dictatorship in Baghdad till 1991. They came to power in 1991 and they are still the most dominant parties in the region in terms of political, military and economic affairs. KDP and PUK have their own forces beside the governmental official forces, which are known as Peshmarga. This means a party can mobilise its forces whenever and wherever it wants. Still, most of the Peshmarga forces are divided, which makes it difficult to unify them under the command of the ministry of Peshmarga.
However in 2009 especially after the Kurdistan parliament election, a new party under the name of Gorran movement has emerged. Due to the increasing influence of Gorran movement, political leverage of PUK and KDP has started to decrease. Gorran movement was able to compete with the PUK dominant rule in areas known as the Green Zone. However, Gorran movement couldn’t significantly increase its influence in KDP dominant areas known as Yellow Zone. PUK and KDP remain more powerful than the regional government, which is one of the reasons that hinder any positive steps forward to establish an institutional government instead of a party-controlled government. Theoretically there is one government, but in reality the Kurdistan region has been divided between the Green Zone and Yellow Zone.
Corruption As a Governmental Epidemic
When there isn’t an institutional government, corruption thrives. Corruption has swept all different sectors in Kurdistan. For example, the ministry of natural resources, which is mostly controlled by the KDP party, has created a political tension between the major political parties. From that day when the Kurdish leaders decided to practice independent petrol policy, the region has been continuously in crisis due to disagreements on petrol exports’ income. Constantly the Iraqi government and its ministry of petrol, the Kurdistan parliament members from other parties such as Gorran movement and Islamic parties and even the PUK parliament members, have proclaimed that the petrol exports’ income is not in trustworthy hands. Export of petrol remains dominated by KDP due to contracts have been signed between the KRG and international petroleum companies.
On the other hand, in Kurdistan there are thousands of people who earn salaries without having a real place inside the KRG. Even many of them are living outside Kurdistan but at the same time receive payments in the form of salaries similar to those working as government employees. Parties who are in the government today especially KDP and PUK remain responsible for the corrupted environment in the Kurdish region.
Rule of Law Is Weak & Courts Are Not Independent
There is a saying in Kurdistan: “The law is just for the poor”. If someone has a strong connection to one of the major parties or to someone with a high rank from KDP or PUK, s/he could escape from the rule of law even if this person committed a terrible crime. Law enforcement departments cannot put this person behind bars. Recently, there were some murder cases, in which the police can’t chase the killers. Why? First, the judges are not independent and they can’t stand against politicians from PUK or KDP. Second, the police have no power to chase such people with connections to the government. We can say that the rule of law is just for ordinary people living in Kurdistan of Iraq.
Controversially, whereas there is a failed and corrupted government in Kurdistan, western countries such as the EU and the US still support the corrupted KRG and Kurdish leaders.