Date: 27th October 2016
MERI Forum 2016
Salahaddin Bahaddin, Leader of Islamic Union of Kurdistan
Ali Bapeer, Ameer of Islamic Group of Kurdistan
Mohammed Haji Mahmoud, Leader, Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party
Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, President of MERI (Chair)
This is a summary of the panel discussion, please find the full videos of the debates and Q&A above.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) currently has no active parliament and there is no sign of an agreement being reached for its reactivation. The major political parties who had forged a coalition government in 2014 are now at a deadlock that seems to solidify day after day. In addition to the amounting financial crisis, there are considerable security challenges and humanitarian issues stemming from having the Islamic State on the KRI’s doorstep. Such challenges pose a serious threat to the governing system in the KRI and the different political parties face a significant task to prevent instability in the region. The panellists will discuss the issues preventing them from coming together and reaching an agreement and will suggest ways to circumvent this.
The session was introduced by Dlawer Ala’Aldeen declaring that “in the absence of dialogue among political leaders, people fear further instability”. The panel was therefore framed as a platform for this dialogue to take place, in order to find common ground, identify obstacles, and aim to begin to think of solutions to overcome these.
A blame culture and also one of belittling others was identified by Salahaddin Bahaddin as a key issue: “the pessimism that has become our culture is not our way”. He considered it “necessary to acknowledge our mistakes”, as well as where responsibility should be assumed, including “admit[ting] our failure in an independent economy” as he believes that the government is responsible for providing the living for the population. He also argued that the parliament “has to be reactivated” as it is an “elected legitimate authority”. The need for cooperation was stressed in achieving these goals, including with Baghdad, particularly in light of dangers posed by IS.
Ali Bapeer argued that “listening to the people is essential for our political and economic future” and that the current governance mentality needs to be changed, as “we, the governing political parties in the KRI, don’t have a common strategy”, echoing Salahaddin Bahaddin’s calls for collaboration. He also acknowledged the difficulties coming from the political deadlock and the importance of learning from the past, whilst not living in it, therefore showing the desire to move beyond past mistakes, as Bahaddin noted.
Mohammed Haji Mahmoud, on the other hand, expressed some positivity. He highlighted that Kurds have come together at the battlefield and “if we stay united we can achieve more”. However, he deplored the internal divisions at the political level asking “why can’t we accept each other” – and encouraged a focus on the rights of people rather than their differences. He also gave his view on the Mosul operation and argued that the challenge in Mosul more political than military. He advised that the solution to the current situation is to institutionalise the government, ensuring that no party is the “top party”, as well as to organise the oil revenues and distribute them properly and fairly.
The video for this panel can be found above.