We’ve discussed the rather violent Gorran party, on several occasions, here at the blog. Gorran is the PKK affiliate party, challenger to KDP in the Iraqi Kurdish region. There is some misinformation around, seeming to originate with Israel, that Gorran is an Iranian supported party. If it is supported by anyone in Iran, it is Iranians who identify as kurds. So, who are the real benefactors of Gorran?
A very vital clue may come from the fact that the leader of Gorran, a man called Mustafa, has left Iraq for London. Yes, the London that is in England! And has been there now for months under the pretext of receiving medical treatment!
Why is Nawshirwan Mustafa really in London? And what type of 'treatment' is he receiving?
Five months ago Nawshirwan Mustafa, general organizer of the Change Movement (Gorran) party in Kurdistan, left Iraq for London under the pretext of receiving medical treatment for chronic back pain. His extended stay has puzzled not only his rivals, but also his supporters. Silence over Mustafa’s condition, as well as Kurdistan’s worsening situation, is generating significant discussion about his political future in the region. Optimists in Mustafa’s camp are romanticizing a return in which he rallies the masses to protest and unseat the ruling Kurds. But this fantasy is far removed from Mustafa’s pragmatic approach, and these supporters are naïve if they do not understand that Mustafa’s path forward will entail navigating a dizzying array of difficult political decisions and impasses.Is he in London in order to learn how it is he is to navigate this dizzying array of difficult political decisions and impasses?
After April 2013, when Gorran and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Masoud Barzani reached an agreement to form the KRG’s eighth cabinet, Gorran’s leader Nawshirwan Mustafa promised four years of stability and development. Although Nawshirwan preferred that Gorran remain an opposition party in the KRG, his colleagues pushed Gorran into the government because they feared that continued operation outside of the government would risk loss of support and members due to the party’s financial difficulties. Entrance into the government was also seen as beneficial to Gorran members, since they would be able to enter and obtain jobs in the administration to strengthen Gorran’s presence there. Meanwhile, the KDP showed its willingness to address Gorran’s demands in the cabinet.Mustafa, the "leader" of Gorran looks to be staying in London, England for quite some time.
But when Gorran did enter the government, things did not go as Gorran and Nawshirwan had expected. Soon they were stopped from pushing any reforms.
Nawishirwan met Barzani a number of times in an attempt to convince him that the Kurdish region should take radical reform measures and that the Parliament should pass the Constitution. Nawishirwan focused on changing the Kurdish political system a parliamentarian system, one which would by definition weaken the presidency and Barzani. Soon, Barzani and the KDP opposed the attempts of Gorran to shift the power structure of the government and the sides’ latent conflict reemerged.
In 2015, Gorran, the PUK, Islamic Union and Islamic Group requested an amendment of the 2005 Presidency law, which Masoud Barzani and the KDP opposed. Nawshirwan realized that he had miscalculated Masoud Barzani’s response to this push towards reforming the Presidency Law, as he had expected Barzani to step down. However, Nawshirwan had no other choice but to support the Speaker and his faction’s struggle to amend the law, since at that point this position was also supported by many in the Kurdish media, reformists, the educated circles, PUK members, Islamists, and Gorran members. This support was key since Gorran had lost thousands of votes in the Iraqi general election after it reached an agreement with the KDP in April 2014. By contesting the presidency issue, it appeared that Gorran had regained the popular support it had lost to the PUK in 2013. Gorran and the Islamic Group stood as the only two parties that remained committed to their reforms plans and this seems to have bolstered their appeal during the recent turmoil.
This danger of voters switching to another opposition party will remain as long as Nawshirwan remains unsuccessful in officially forming an alliance of PUK, Gorran and Islamists. Yet he remains one of the strongest figures in the Kurdish opposition and the only option for leading a joint opposition group against the KDP: he is still the only figure with which the KDP is interested in cooperating.
Gorran’s strength is also relative to other opposition groups’ weaknesses. The PUK’s internal conflicts have weakened their leadership, and the performance of PUK member and KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani has embarrassed others in the party. Although many PUK members and outsiders alike support PUK leader Barham Salih, he is opposed by Talabani’s family wing as well as the KDP. His inability to mount an effective leadership has been demonstrated by his failure to formulate an official platform outlining his ideas.
Moreover, the KDP’s recent actions suggest potential future cooperation with Gorran. Surprisingly, the KDP’s latest moves hint that the KDP has regretted denying the parliament Speaker’s entrance into Erbil and that they have realized that there will be no resolution of the current political crisis without Gorran. Nazhat Hali, a KDP leadership member and head of KDP intelligence, has written several pieces in which he claimed that only Nawshirwan Mustafa and Masoud Barzani can end the deadlock and save Kurdistan.
KDP now has two choices with Gorran. The first is to normalize the situation by reactivating Parliament and its speaker, requesting that Gorran ministers return to the government, and extending Masoud Barzani’s term outside the Parliament. This course is supported by the KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.
The second option—supported by KDP National Security Chancellor Masrour Barzani—would be for the KDP to reach an agreement with the PUK and form a new cabinet, pushing Gorran back and out into an opposition party. Gorran would actually prefer the second option. A retreat from the center of policy making would allow them to focus their efforts on the current failures of the government, bringing to light the KDP shortcomings and, were they to join them, the PUK. In this scenario, Gorran might have a chance at becoming the top party in subsequent elections, allowing for more sweeping reforms.
But until the KDP decides how to manage Gorran, the future of Gorran remains uncertain and the challenges facing Nawshirwan Mustafa will force him to stay in London for several more months at least. Had the ISIS threat not existed, Nawshirwan Mustafa might have led a popular general strike, but Nawshirwan fears that political upheaval might leave Kurdistan fragmented like Syria, Afghanistan, or Yemen. In light of this, Mustafa may remain in London up until ISIS is removed from Mosul. Alternatively, Nawshirwan may return if Masoud Barzani engages Gorran in negotiations to extend Masoud’s presidential term in return for political reforms, a process which has already appeared to have started.
Until a viable chance for reform arises, it is unlikely that Mustafa will risk his dream to form a united democratic Kurdistan by dividing Kurdistan. He is patient but behind this patience is a calculated preparation for a battle of radical civil disobedience. This non-violent struggle and anti-corruption campaign may be waged independently or as part of an opposition coalition, but it will likely start in time to bear fruits for the 2017 elections. In the meantime, Mustafa’s supporters will have to await his return from London.
Will Barzani be ousted? Recall my suspicions that Barzani will be gone by the end of 2016? As I suspect. Will he step down and Mustafa step in? After being properly groomed in London?
If anyone has any thoughts at all to share on what might be going on there. I'd love to read them!