By: Sarkawt Shamsulddin & Hawre Hasan Hama
“What is next for Gorran?” A question in everybody’s mind these days. Some people are fantasizing Mustafa’s legacy as stable, firm, and moving forward. Others are portrating as “shaking” and imagining partition or unification or slowly fading. The Change Movement (Gorran) has had already troubled prior to the death of Nawshirwan Mustafa, Gorran’s general coordinator. This is partly because of Nawshirwan Mustafa’s illness, and in 2014, the Party participated in a grand coalition government with the KDP and the PUK. However, the conflict appeared soon between the Gorran and the KDP on the Kurdistan Regional presidential law, in October 2015. The security forces loyal to the KDP prevented the Kurdistan Parliament Speaker, Yusuf Muhammad from the Change Movement, the second-largest bloc in parliament, from entering Erbil. Muhammad was trying to do his job as the speaker to amend the presidential law, which was due in August 2015. The Kurdistan presidential law does not allow anyone to remain in power for more than two terms. Massoud Barzani, the leader of the KDP, has ruled the region for two terms and his latest term was extended for two more years, but the law does not allow Barzani to run again. The Kurdistan parliament tried to amend the law so that the Kurdistan president would be elected by parliament, but the KDP opposed this action and closed the parliament. Since then, the Kurdistan Parliament remains dysfunctional. Following this incident, Gorran ministers were unilaterally expelled from the government by the KDP, who proceeded to fill all ministerial posts. Consequently, the election promises that had made to public by the Gorran Movement remain unimplemented, and even the promises have been becoming the funny story amongst some voters since that incident. The Gorran signed an agreement with the PUK on 17 May 2016 as an attempt to limit the KDP’s power and bring about the balance of power within the Kurdistan of Iraq. The agreement principles , however, remain on the paper so far.
The death of Nawshirwan Mustafa may deepen the current crisis of the Gorran and would be a severe blow to the Party in the political landscape of the Kurdistan Region. In the Kurdish history, the fate of the Kurdish national movements and the Kurdish political parties is always depended on the existence of their leaders, once the leaders were dead, killed or even arrested, the movements faced a severe blow. For example, once Simko Shikak; Qazi Muhammad, the leader of the Mahabad Republic; and Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) were killed and passed away, their national movements failed at the same time. Moreover, the death of Mustafa Barzani jeopardized the Kurdish national uprising in the Kurdistan of Iraq. On the same direction, the capture of Öcalan dealt a severe blow to the PKK, as evidenced by its declaring of a unilateral ceasefire that lasted five years. Another example is the absence of Talabani (secretary general of the PUK), once he suffered a stroke, his sickness dealt a death blow to the PUK. As his illness deteriorated, conflicts and divisions deepened within the PUK and crippled the decision-making process with. As a result of this, On September 1, 2016, two deputies of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), denouncing what they describe as a group acting “unethically” within the Party, have announced the establishment of new front called “Decision-Making Body” and they claimed that any decisions made outside of this core “will not be recognized.” Kosrat Rasul Ali, first deputy of the PUK, and Barham Salih, second deputy, two of the senior PUK leaders, made the announcement in a message backed by several members of the PUK political bureau, leadership committee, and MPs. Moreover, the PUK could not make crucial decisions. Some PUK officials prefer Gorran, while others tend to sign an agreement with the KDP. This division, on one hand, prevents the PUK and Gorran’s agreement from being implemented, and also an obstacle to reaching an agreement with the KDP.
Options For Gorran after the death of its leader
It is absolutely true that there is no one among Gorran leaders to replace Nawshirwan Mustafa. He was so unique, and his entire life was unique, but the Party needs a leader to move forward. There are three possible scenarios before the Gorran Movement after the death of its leader. First, Gorran might join the PUK, both parties could establish a shared leadership and participate in the upcoming elections with one single list. This scenario, however, is only desired and welcomed by some PUK top officials immediately after the death of Nawshirwan Mustafa. In contrast, Gorran’s officials absolutely rejected the unification process with the PUK, they said that ” we have a signed deal with the PUK, we have to implement our deal instead of unifying”. It should be noted that the best strategy for the two sides might be the implementation of the signed deal, since it was signed between Jalal Talabani and Nawshirwan Mustafa. Also, the deal was largely welcomed by the grassroots of the two parties. Moreover, the deal is a roadmap and a guideline to stop the KDP aggression and expansionism. Second scenario is an imagination by the Gorran rivals which is “some of the leaders of Gorran will go back to PUK while Gorran as a party continue, but unless a strong leader emerges (which they lack now), the party will be crippled by internal differences, may lose votes in the election and eventually lead more leaders to rejoin PUK and the party become a marginalised weak party”. If this scenario comes into practice, there is highly likely that the PUK will sign a new agreement with the KDP and marignalise the Gorran. This means that the Kurdistan region would get back to the previous experience of the two ruling parties (KDP and PUK). Finally, the worst- case scenario is that the two parties would not implement the agreement and would not reunion. This is the worst because currently both the PUK and the Gorran Movement are suffering from the leadership crisis, this situation might only be in the interest of the KDP. If the circumstances do not carefully deal with, there is more likely that the KDP will manipulate the condition by adopting the policy of dividing and ruling.
However, these some common scenarios and far from happening. The Change Movement still has the popular support, and the death of its supreme leader can become an opportunity to renew its leadership. It is possible the Party to face both political and financial pressure if the agreement with the PUK fails. However, the Party should introduce new options for its people and for the political crisis in Kurdistan. Mobilizing its members would be one of the options to make Gorran’s position firm and steady after the death of Mustafa. But leadership crisis remains Gorran’s top priority before making a new deal with anyone else.