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Kurdistan’s democracy at risk

Ruwayda Mustafah

Published: Updated:

The prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan sacked five ministers from the Gorran party following a week of anti-government protests. It is not uncommon for minsters to be sacked in Europe, for example, but what is uncommon are the events that followed the sackings, which have set a dangerous precedent for Kurdistan’s relative stability and democracy.

The spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has claimed that the protests were orchestrated by Gorran to undermine the government. However, no investigation has been carried out to verify the claim. More importantly, following the sackings parliament speaker Yusif Muhammed of Gorran was prevented from entering the Kurdish capital by forces belonging to the KDP-led coalition government.

The coming weeks will likely see more political bickering, at a time when the Kurdish government wants to bypass Baghdad in receiving U.S. military support to fight ISIS.

Ruwayda Mustafah

Public needs

The government has not paid enough attention to the demands of the public. Demonstrators called for salaries that have not been paid for the past four months, due to the region not receiving its annual share of the budget from Baghdad.

However, critics say the Kurdish government can pay the salaries of civil servants because it exports an average of 600,000 barrels of oil per day to Turkey, according to the latter’s minister of energy and natural resources, Taner Yildiz.

Iraqi Kurdistan does not face a threat of civil war, which it experienced in the mid-1990s. However, in expelling an important partner from the coalition government, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani faces difficulties in rebuilding public trust, satisfying public needs, paying the salaries of civil servants, and avoiding further tensions.

It is possible that Gorran will become a forceful opposition group, or the parties may find a compromise, though this seems less likely. The coming weeks will likely see more political bickering, at a time when the Kurdish government wants to bypass Baghdad in receiving U.S. military support to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). If the demands of protesters are further ignored, resentment and anger toward the government will heighten.

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Ruwayda Mustafah is a Law graduate, and PhD candidate in International Politics. She is the former Editor of Alliance for Kurdish Rights. You can follow her on Twitter here: @RuwaydaMustafah

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.