Levent Basturk/World Bulletin
The political landscape in the Kurdistan Regional Government has been in a process of transformation since the 2009 elections. The Gorran (Change)Movement, under the leadership of Noshirwan Mustafa, is the major actor in this transformation and became second party in the KRG general elections in September 2013. We interviewed with Dr. Sardar Aziz, a Gorran Movement member and an expert on Turkey-KRG ties, about the KRG and regional politics, Turkey-KRG relations, and Peace Process in Turkey.
Levent Basturk: Dear Dr. Aziz, thank you for accepting our offer to have this interview. Let us get to know you better. Would you introduce yourself?
Sardar Aziz: I have received my PhD from the Department of Government at the University College Cork in Ireland. I’ve been working as a visiting lecturer at the same university. I also work as a journalist and researcher, publishing in the area of East-West relations for nonpartisan Kurdish newspaper called Awene. I carried out research in area of gas and oil and politics of natural resources. I wrote a monograph on Kurdistan natural resources policy. It is more than a year I have been working on Turkey; especially Turkey-KRG relationship. And in parallel to that I have been trying to develop relationship between Gorran and Turkey, not as a party but trying to introduce both sides to their views. Furthermore, I was a candidate in the last election for the KRG parliament. I was 21st in the Gorran list; but because of the women’s quota, I could not be elected.
L.B.: After splitting from the PUK, the Gorran movement became one of major contenders in Kurdistan politics. Why Gorran decided to be a separate party from the PUK?
S.A.: I think, there is more than one factor. First, within the PUK, the reform was reached a deadlock. Noshirwan Mustafa was one of the reformers who were pushing the party for reforms. He couldn’t make it within the party. And moreover, the situation of Kurdistan has changed in a way that a new -post-war- generation people are asking for more rights, freedoms, transparency and social justice. And also the regional situation was suitable. It was not like in past, when a party splits from the other party, it was always seen as a treason. The regional situation was not in a way that old forms of accusations could be justified. When Noshirwan decided to leave the PUK, he was not hesitant and he was thinking about enriching the Kurdish politics by bringing a new model. This has been basically a model of a politics without gun, politics of words, of media and discussion; constraining on transparency, anti-corruption and social justice. So forth, for these collateral of reasons Gorran emerged. And as we know, it basically emerged like a meteor, very fast growing, and has become one of the main parties in the region. This shows the readiness of the situation for the emergence of a party like Gorran.
L.B.: How can you evaluate results of the last general elections in the KRG? Gorran and Yekgrtu Islamic Party performed well in these elections. According to some speculations, these two parties benefited from the dissatisfaction from the government. As we all know, there are lots of accusation directed to the KGR government by the opposition, which are also shared by many people. However, both KDP and the PUK was sharing the government and it seems that only the PUK was affected by the criticism towards and dissatisfaction from the government. What do you say about this?
S.A.: I think, in comparison, there is not much freedom in KDP area as in the PUK area. There is no freedom under the KDP that people could criticize or come out for change. People are forced to vote because of their salaries, employment and threat. So every type of tools used in a way to influence the way people vote. The KDP didn’t hesitate to use every other illegitimate tool to increase his seats. I think the PUK suffered more because, inside the PUK there are a lot of factions and these factions cannot reach an agreement on how to have a policy or cohesiveness to be together or to act together in future. I think the PUK suffers internally. Gorran splits from the PUK led the PUK lost half of its constituency. So people punished the PUK because they thought the PUK helped the KDP to do what he wants to do. And especially regarding the extension of the Barzani’s presidency, people thought that the PUK was the one, who organized it, or the one who facilitated it, or the one who made it possible. So, for that reason or many other reasons, the PUK suffered more than any other party. And also, I think, because of the absence of Talabani as the leader, the PUK cannot have or develop a coherent policy/clear point of view on anything happening in the region. So, the combination of all these contributed to declining performance of the PUK.
L.B.: Do you think that Gorran and Yekgrtu are going to take place in the new government? Will we see a broad-based government, or the continuity of the previous governments?
S.A.: It’s an open ended question. There is a lot of talk on a broad-based coalition that include main five parties. Probably the PUK and the KDP will prefer they can do it together. But the PUK is not in a position to go in a coalition with the KDP again because they suffered a lot as a result of the coalition they had with the KDP till now. If they want to repeat that same coalition again, they will continue to suffer more. As a result of it, the PUK is more cautious in going into a coalition with the KDP again. The Gorran movement is showing an interest in participating in the broad-based coalition government if there is a space for them to implement the policies they demand.
L.B.: Is it a matter of space or it is a matter of an agreement on certain set of principles?
S.A.: By space, I mean, to let you to have an opportunity to implement your policy. We are not demanding to be in a coalition like in the KDP-PUK coalition model. It was dysfunctional. You had a minister and deputy minister and both of them are in a position of a minister, still none of them read the paper of the other; as a result the ministry was not functioning basically.
L.B.: In this case, can we say that, in order to be a part of the government, Gorran will have a certain set of conditions and will force or ask the KDP to comply with them?
Gorran is negotiating with them as a party based on the people’s vote. It doesn’t have an army, it doesn’t pay anyone’s salary, it doesn’t have any other things that the KDP and PUK have. Therefore, Gorran has to try to fulfil the promises it gave to the people. So, for Gorran has to be clear that going into government means that you are going to be able to do something. Otherwise, just going into government and get money and have a share in the budget will harm Gorran more than any other things.
L.B.: what are the prospects for a broad-based government?
S.A.: There is just a talk on a broad-based government; but we don’t know now how it will be formed. There are many questions that need to be addressed in relation to that, such as what positions the opposition will get, how they share the ministries and etc. It’s really difficult to imagine how it will work.
L.B.: You are working on improving relations between Turkey and Gorran, which is not as strong as the relations between Turkey and two ruling parties. Do you think that your relationship with Turkey will be like the way those two parties have developed their relations?
S.A.: Gorran doesn’t want to follow the same model. And Gorran doesn’t want to open a Gorran bureau in Ankara like the KDP and the PUK have. Gorran wants to have relations with Turkey through KRG and want to develop mutual relations between Turkey and KRG not only between Turkey and Gorran. We don’t want to follow the KDP model. In other words, we don’t want to work for securing Gorran’s interests. We will not want to repeat the same model. The novelty of the Gorran’s model is somehow challenging in a way that we’ll have a broad-based relationship, more transparent, and more state-government based rather than state-party or state-personality based. In the past, Turkey was seeing Gorran as a minor party and not considering it influential in the region. But now, since it’s the second major party, Turkey is taking Gorran more seriously.
L.B.: If Goran becomes a partner in the coalition government, the relationship between Turkey and KGR is going to stay as it is or there is going to be some minor changes?
S.A.: Gorran means change… (laughing), so, we prefer some changes. I think, the relationship needs a change and needs more transparency. It needs to be more broad-based relationship. For example, a group in the parliament oversees the relationship, not only certain people or a party. The issues of oil and gas are very serious for our economy and our future. This cannot be just done in a personal way or behind closed doors.
L.B.: What is the Gorran’s point of view regarding Turkey‘s Peace Process?
S.A.: Gorran supports the process. It is a step in a right direction. Gorran regards the peace within Turkey as the corner stone for a long lasting, mutual relationship between Turkey and other parts of Kurdistan. Gorran regards peace as a way to strengthen Turkey’s position in the region. Without peace with the Kurds, Turkey cannot achieve the desired position. Therefore there should be peace; a just peace.
L.B.: One more question: Regarding Syria, do you have a similar perspective with the KDP? If not, what’s your point of view?
No, we do not have same perspective with the KDP. The KDP is trying to limit the influence of the PYD. We’re not interfering in Syria. If the PYD is the strongest party there, that’s the reality. Interfering there, trying to make other party more influential and creating divisions are not right things to do. The KDP officially says that they are trying to bring all factions together, which basically means that there should not be only PYD or PYD should not be the only main party there. We respect what people want. People have freedom to choose and to go with who they want. We support what people like and what they want.Last Mod: 19 Kasım 2013, 17:23