At a series of meetings of Iraqi Kurdish politicians in Baghdad last month, Aram Sheikh Mohammed, a senior member of the Iraqi Kurdish opposition party, the Change movement, was seen sitting next to Khasro Koran, a senior member of the Kurdish Democratic Party, which currently rules the semi-autonomous northern region. The two parties were working together and presenting a united front in Baghdad.
This may come as something of a shock to observers of Iraqi Kurdish politics. There has been much bitter infighting between representatives of the Change movement and the Kurdish Democratic Party, or KDP, in the recent past. In fact, back in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has its own borders, military and Parliament, the two parties had barely met since January.
Still when Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, mooted his reforms last month, including the formation of a technocrat-heavy new government, the Iraqi Kurdish politicians worked across party lines to preserve their region's status. That alliance in Baghdad is now leading to speculations about the possibility of rapprochement on a local level.
Lawmakers from both parties expressed a desire to use the momentum from the meetings in Baghdad to resolve the regional dispute. While the problems in the region are centred on the ruling system, in Baghdad the Kurdish parties share a common goal.
“The problems in the Iraqi Kurdish region are different from those in Baghdad,” Change movement MP, Bahar Mahmoud, told NIQASH. “The problems in Kurdistan are centred on the rule of law and democracy.”
“There are different issues but we should certainly accept each other inside the region,” Mohammed Ali, the KDP’s spokesperson in the region, added.
"The problems of the region are political in nature, while those in Baghdad are national problems,” Ahmed Sarhan, an MP from the KDP, told NIQASH. “For this reason, there is agreement between Kurdish political parties in Baghdad but this will also impact the alignment between the two parties in the region.”
Interestingly enough, Amin Bakr, an MP for the Change movement, agreed with the views of his KDP counterpart. Bakr said the unity in Baghdad should make the two parties ashamed of their disagreements inside Iraqi Kurdistan.
Others in Baghdad had worried that the current disagreement between the KDP and the Change movement would crack the Iraqi Kurdish political consensus on national issues.
“If the nationalist demands of the Kurds in Baghdad become partisan demands, there will be problems, as happened in 2011,” MP Ahmed al-Haj Rashid, a senior member of the Islamic bloc in Baghdad, told NIQASH.
Basically the feuding political parties have no choice but to stand united on national issues that affect their existence, says Kamran Birawi, a professor of political science at the University of Dohuk. “But their unity in Baghdad will not have any impact on the relations between political parties inside Iraqi Kurdistan,” he concluded.