Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kurdistani List confident to form government comfortably

Despite internal differences, Kurds should remain united on decisive issues

By Ako Muhammed

Candidate Mahmoud Muhammad exhibits agendas of the Kurdistani List, which is comprised of the two governing Kurdish Parties: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Could you explain the projects that were carried out in the last four years and why there are complaints?

The Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] during the past years had tried to fulfill the maximum number of projects listed within its work program and also within the agenda publicized by the Kurdistan Alliance List [for the 2005 election]. According to surveys, our own expectations and some organizations, a large number of the promised projects has been accomplished. Some of the promises were perhaps hard to make true because of issues relevant to disputes with Baghdad. Also, some of the promised projects have begun but are not yet complete.

Several projects were executed in Kurdistan cities and towns. There were attempts to bring in foreign investment to help in the region’s economy. Changes were made to the education system so as to follow the world’s developments. For higher education, it is clear how the number of universities has increased. Several construction and service projects have been achieved. Drinking water issues are now totally solved in many places. The electricity problem is being addressed, and this problem will be solved at a very good rate in the next year. Solutions are being found for fuel problems; also, the recently opened Erbil refinery will answer Kurdistan people’s demands for fuel and will provide power stations with the necessary fuel.

The complaints are not abnormal. Kurdistan people’s expectations are high. People are aware now; more openly, they can see the world outside. They think that the reality now could be much more improved. Therefore, their life demands are continuously boosted, and then they complain.

One of the complaints is that the projects were not equally distributed throughout the region.

This perhaps is because we had two administrations and the construction process was fast somewhere and slow in somewhere else. In some places, projects for services really began very late. We will try to solve this in the coming years. We will try to address problems everywhere in the region in order to achieve justice in distributing the projects and the solutions. Also, some places that received lesser services must be taken into consideration in order to boost the development in those areas.

Every list talks about reform. What kind of reform is in your agenda?

Reform should not be only slogans. It needs to be planned. A slogan is no deeper than the surface. We don’t want to exploit this important issue for electoral campaigning, but we want reform within the content of our agenda. Besides, for reform to become reality, it requires a social and economic environment. This is because some problems that hinder reform in Kurdistan are social relations, and some of the relations are sacred. An economic environment is needed--you cannot publish slogans for an economic reform that is beyond your financial ability.

It is not reform you promise when you speak of dedicating salaries. Reform is when you create job opportunities. You must find a system to help unemployed people until they find a job.

No one can deny there is corruption. What in your agenda confronts this problem?

Yes. We do not deny that we became heirs to a bad administrative system. The corruption is not only about money, but it also means deficient work, imperfect execution of projects, not being at work, disadvantages of wealth and ability, lack of project oversight, and also injustice in distribution of projects. All of these must be studied and resolved. Confronting corruption cannot be limited; for example, you catch four people and fine them. The confrontation needs to be according to detailed programs so as to uproot corruption totally.

The ruling parties have shares with companies that carry out major projects, and the parties’ influence helps the companies evade oversight.

Parties can take part in the investment and can carry out projects to earn financial support for themselves. But, a party should not use its influence with the government to take over all the projects and block work and investment opportunities from other people. One point in our agenda is to prevent exploitation. The market must be free and investment must be open to everybody in accordance with determined criteria. Any party, company, or investor with the criteria should have the right to take on a project.

The KDP and PUK contributed salaries for a large number of people. Why weren’t factories built instead?

This dates back to some years ago. The economic situation at that time must be taken into consideration. The two parties employed many people at a time when it was impossible to create job opportunities; unemployment spread drastically in Kurdistan. Employing people at that time could have partially improved the individuals’ low incomes. That was a way to prevent people from being broke. And now, this case must be treated through a system suitable for the current situation.

In what w do you think opposition is helpful for the political process in the region?

We, as the Kurdistani List, believe in diversity of political opinions in Kurdistan. We believe in the religious, ethnical, and political multiplicity, thus we expect different political lists colored with their own ideologies to come to Parliament. With all the diversity we can serve our country; a part of them that wins people’s trust can form the government, and another part can stay as opposition in Parliament. If there was no opposition up until now, the KDP and PUK should not be blamed. We never prevented anyone from becoming the opposition. The parties took part in the government according to their size; this perhaps was a necessity of a certain stage when a wide-ranging government of all colors was needed.

Whenever a party joins the government, it cannot be opposition in Parliament at the same time. We have seen that and it is an unhealthy case.

Will the appearance of an opposition not weaken the Kurdish discourse in Baghdad where more demands still need to be achieved?

We must draw a line between the decisive national issues and the internal issues such reconstructing the economy and social and cultural issues. We benefit when our national and political discourse is united toward Iraq on the decisive issues such as federalism, Kirkuk and disputed areas, Kurdistan Region’s wealth, and relations with the Iraqi federal government. This does not mean that we don’t have a variety of opinions, but we must have a united attitude toward those issues.

Why do some parties oppose the Kurdistan Region Constitution project?

Those who stand against the Constitution are two groups: some from inside and some from outside the region. The parties inside the region did not honestly explain why they oppose the Constitution. I can frankly uncover most of them; those who work inside a known list that already announced its rivalry against us stood against the Constitution because of the role of religion. They interpreted their opposition through another issue--the authority of the region’s president has been increased. Meanwhile, this excuse is baseless; authorities of the president in the Constitution are the same as those in the presidential law that was approved by Parliament. Those people who oppose now were present at discussing every item of that law and they never showed any disagreement. What they say now is just electoral campaigning.

Internal objections are on some specific items. In Kurdistan, with its religious and ethnic multiplicity, the Constitution cannot achieve the total interests of every side. All of them, however, must compromise a part of its interests.

But for those outside, they never want Kurdistan Region to have a Constitution at all. These people governed Iraq during the former system; not only do they oppose the region’s Constitution, but they also oppose the federalism and oppose the region’s having own its parliament and government.

The Constitution project was passed in one day. This makes the process suspicious.

The Constitution project has been published online since 2007. A committee was formed to review it. The committee received nearly 17,000 notes and, accordingly, the Constitution project was amended several times. Also, we have consulted with several international experts to help us draft a Constitution appropriate with the current situation of Kurdistan and in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution. Parliament voted to make it a project ready for referendum.

How do you feel the campaigns played out?

The campaigns went two ways. One way was like ours in the Kurdistani List. We tried to have civilized campaigns in order to not cause disorder or annoy people. But some campaigns by some lists were old style, as they gathered annoying crowds and disturbed people until late at night. For this campaign, we tried to expose our agenda via media more than advertising. All in all, the campaign process progressed well, with the exception of some disorder in Suleimaniya. It was more peaceful in Erbil and Duhok. The tense campaigns in Suleimaniya might be because of the latest competitions within the fractured PUK fracture.

What’s your comment on the housing problem in Kurdistan Region?

We have plans to build apartments and distribute land for youths. This issue is discussed in detail in our agenda in order to solve it completely.

Kurdish youth immigrants are now being deported from Europe. How do you deal with this issue?

We as the KDP and as the KRG have announced that we are against deporting people from Europe to Kurdistan. The situation here is not yet quite suitable for them to be returned. But indeed, we cannot impose our opinion on European countries. We are against the deportation and attempted to stop it, but we couldn’t succeed. When they are returned, they should be helped in terms of employment and housing.

Many education projects have been and are being carried out, but still there are 50 to 60 students in some classrooms.

We have plans to build a range of schools and also to encourage investors and donators to build schools in order to reduce the school crises.

The Peshmarga forces should turn under the command of the government.

We continue our attempt to change the party authority to governmental authority.

More importantly, concerning Article 140 and the Kirkuk issue--Kurds could not create pressures to settle it on time.

There were pressures from the Kurdish side and sometimes it reached a stage to where we threatened a boycott of the Iraqi government because of Article 140. But this issue is not a problem of Iraq and Kurdistan alone; it is being taken into consideration by the United States, Arab countries, and neighboring countries as well. Therefore, the issue is much more complicated. The problem can be solved only through constitutional and diplomatic means, and we will increase our efforts in this stream.

What are your expectations for the elections?

We should not tell our expectations; but in any case, we will win a rate of votes that will be sufficient to form the government comfortably.

Are you the next Parliament speaker?

This is to be answered after the elections. There were rumors who will become the speaker and who is the prime minister and we [the KDP and PUK] have been accused that we have already distributed the posts. Therefore, we have decided not to talk about posts.

Why is it better for the people of Kurdistan to vote for the Kurdistani List and for its presidential candidate?

This list can protect security and confront all problems created for the region. It has experience in administration and has noticeable political influence in the level of Iraq and also regionally. The Kurdistani List is more competent than any other list. Voting for the Kurdistani List is voting for more reconstruction, reform, security, and for the welfare of Kurdistan’s people.

Voting for the Kurdistani List presidential candidate Massoud Barzani guarantees Kurdistan people confidence, for he can confront conspiracies set against our legitimate issues and against Kurdistan Region. The strength of the KRG comes from a strong president who is recognizable in the international medium and who has played a key role in the Iraqi political process.

The Kurdish Globe

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