As politicians prepare to begin campaigning for a chance to be chosen for a seat in Iraq’s parliament in Kurdistan and future elections, many have strong feeling towards the current state of affairs in the nation. Mala Bakhtiar, a high-ranking member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party, believes that the PUK and KDP are the obvious choices and as such are Kurdistan’s greatest chance for furthering Kurdish interests. During an event, Bakhtiar told PUK supporters, “Don’t say history has ended. Don’t say these parties [KDP and PUK] have ended. You cannot easily be the alternatives. You can be part of the framework called the experience of Kurdistan. You cannot do better than us, KDP and PUK, with your speeches,” in reference to a new party started by former PUK member Barham Salih.

The PUK recently organized “Kurdistan Between Destruction and Development,” a conference in Sulaymaniah that was attended by Bakhtiar last week where he spoke to supporters. In a hypothetical question about the lack of existence by the KDP and PUK, he asked attendees, “What would happen in Kurdistan? Can these parties do things better than us?”

Offshoots and new political start-ups are not new to the Kurdistan autonomous region though. The Gorran party was organized by Nawshirwan Mustafa in 2009, prior to that he was a prominent member in the PUK. In 2017 Barham Salih established the Coalition for Democracy and Justice but prior to that he belonged to the PUK as well. Shaswar Abdulwahid is a new face in Kurdish politics but in the process of starting the New Generation Movement party. All of the aforementioned groups have heavily criticized the larger parties extensively.

Bakhtiar has chastised the political parties in opposition of the ruling ones. He was quick to point out that they were not criticizing the PUK/KDP’s shortcomings but rather were assaulting Kurdistan’s stability during time of uncertainty and national strife. He insisted that their criticism should be directed at the Iraqi central government and it’s continued efforts to cause instability by shorting Kurdistan economically and politically.

Bakhtiar stated that, “They don’t want to upset anyone over the rights of the Kurds, over the budget of the Kurds, over Kurdistan’s Kirkuk,” in reference to the lose of the region when Iraqi supported paramilitary forces took over the city last October. He also critisized former Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Barham Salih, questioning why he hadn’t “done better” in his role as a leading government official. Bakhtiar also speculated that the former Prime Minister would not be successful in his separation from his “mother party” while promising to terminate and reclaim party assets from any member of the PUK discovered to be employed by the CDJ. He ended by pleading with PUK supporters to remain calm and make calculated decisions this election, not to be mislead by candidates looking to be the next “Trump” of the Kurdistan regional Government.

Featured Image Courtesy of  Levi Clancy [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons