As the problems get worse in northern Iraq after a recent referendum, new political parties and alliances are emerging. The Coalition for Democracy and Justice, and New Generation are two new parties that plan to run for the first time in elections.

Protesters attend a rally against the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq on December 18, 2017
Protesters attend a rally against the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq on December 18, 2017 (Reuters)

Two new political parties are planning to run in the upcoming elections in the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), which is part of northern Iraq. 

The Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ), which is led by former KRG prime minister Barham Salih, and the New Generation, led by Shaswar Abdulwahid, are eager to normalise the KRG's relations with Baghdad.

Who are these two parties' supporters and what do they offer?

The Coalition for Democracy and Justice

The Coalition for Democracy and Justice was approved as a political entity in mid-September last year.

Party members chose Barham Salih as chairman at the first congress of the CDJ in Sulaymaniyah on January 10.

Salih, who served as the KRG's prime minister from 2009 to 2012 and the deputy prime minister of the Baghdad government before that, has closer ties to Baghdad then the ruling KDP, and the main opposition Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Salih also backs an independent Kurdish state, but he said that in order to gain independence, they should keep a good relationship with Baghdad. 

The CDJ made an alliance with the opposition parties Gorran and the Komal, which already left the coalition government of the KRG. Gorran members used to be part of PUK, and the two parties have allied against the KDP in previous elections. This time, Gorran decided to act with the new CDJ of Salih.

Both Gorran and Komal have their headquarters in Sulaymaniyah. The three parties' officials visited Baghdad last week to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi and Vice President Nouri al Maliki in a bid to get support, and as a signal that they are eager to ease tensions.

Salih pledged to fight corruption in congress. 

He blamed the mainstream political parties for the KRG’s “unwanted conditions”.

“Misreading local and foreign realities and failure to care for the public interests" were two of many wrong policies responsible for the current situation, according to Salih, referring to the outcome of the referendum.

Presidential and parliamentary elections of the KRG were due to take place on November 1, 2017, but were postponed after the outcome of the non-binding independence referendum on June 25, 2017.

The New Generation

The electoral commission also allowed in late December another party, the New Generation, to run in future elections.

Shaswar Abdulwahid, who was a media boss in Iraq, founded the party on October 1, following the failed referendum.  

Abdulwahid became more popular when he started the 'no' campaign during the referendum. It was called 'no for now' and rejected any independence moves before Baghdad and neighbouring countries were ready to recognise it.

In addition to the referendum, he also supported the protests in Suleymaniyah via the TV channel, NTR.

The channel was raided during the protests and KRG police arrested Abdulwahid who had remained under custody for nine days.

"I continue to have the utmost respect for all those protesters still in detention," he said following his release on November 27, adding that people should continue to protest despite the harsh reactions by police.

Abdulwahid sold NTR, after establishing the political party. New Generation supporters are mostly the young people of the Kurdish population in northern Iraq, who are not keen on any type of clashes with Baghdad.

The postponed elections are expected to take place after May, when Iraq will hold parliamentary elections. All the parties in the KRG can compete in Iraqi general elections, and that will be an indicator of how much support each party has.

Back to 2003 borders after the referendum

The KRG’s relations with the central government in Baghdad were already tense, and have strained further after Erbil held a non-binding and widely seen as an illegal independence vote.  

The cost of kicking off the vote in September has become devastating for KRG’s economy and politics, as Baghdad took actions against the move. 

Turkey and Iran, the KRG's two neighbours, supported the Baghdad government against the KRG, suspending all flights going in and out. Iran went a step further and had closed its border with the region, a move which was not supported by Turkey, since it could cause harm to civilians. 

The Iraqi army moved against the KRG's Peshmerga forces, and re-claimed most of the Iraqi territory that the Peshmerga took from Daesh after 2014, and kept illegally, so that the KRG would turn back to its 2003 borders.

Baghdad took control of oil-rich areas and border gates that used to be under KRG control, and that worsened the economic situation for the KRG and that led to street protests. 

Civil servants took to the streets to demand their overdue salaries and for an end to corruption. Several people were killed by armed forces after the protests turned violent.

Source: TRT World