US backing bipartisan severe corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan region: FP
Foreign Policy says that rather than using its influence to stop political corruption and human rights abuses by the bipartisan ruling parties, the US is offering them open arms and political support.
The political class in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, a long-time partner of the United States and other Western countries, is raising serious concerns regarding its corrupt governing policies that have directly placed its citizens in deep economic and social crises and subjected them to human rights abuses, Foreign Policy reported on Thursday, warning that stability in the autonomous region is no longer guaranteed.
Rather than using its influence to address these violations and hold officials responsible for them accountable, the US is still arming the Kurdish leaders and their parties and offering them unlimited political support, the report added, arguing that this must change.
The bipartisan parties in the region, which are in an ongoing power-driven conflict and rifts, have been hindering their citizens' freedom of expression rights, in addition to adopting policies that are of benefit only to elites - while the ordinary citizen was left suffering deep economic inequality despite the large revenue the region receives from its oil and gas exports. The situation led to massive migration waves of citizens looking for a better quality of life in foreign countries.
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The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both close allies to the US, are the uncontested ruling parties of Iraqi Kurdistan and have been so since its inception as an autonomous region in the 1990s. The governorates of Dohuk and Erbil fall under the rule of the KDP, while Sulaymaniyah is controlled by the PUK - as both parties are responsible to set the policy of each of their controlled areas.
The region's Peshmerga and other security forces have also grown political affiliations and became an instrument of the power play between the ruling classes - and are often used to suppress anti-government protests.
Since the last elections in 2018, the clashes of the bipartisan political parties have led to the creation of a dysfunctional system, resulting in the emergence of new, younger leaders that are only after fulfilling self-interests rather than offering a more, citizen-driven agendas.
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Among the main disputes between the ruling parties is the management of the energy industry, relations with Baghdad, and how to divide revenue generated through border crossings and taxes. The Peshmarga has also witnessed its fair share of damage; disagreements prevented the reforming of the region's main security force into an apolitical modernized force that is unified to protect the interests of the autonomous region.
Earlier in October 2022, the KDP and PUK announced that regional elections will be postponed, and the term of the current parliament will be extended, which raised even more concerns regarding the legitimacy of the region's governmental institutions and its economic state - that requires reforms at the level of political and government establishments, which does not seem to be the case in the foreseeable future.
People in the region face major challenges in how to navigate through the dysfunctional state of affairs in the government split between the KDP and PUK, leaving the majority of citizens suspecting electoral fraud - while opposition parties, lacking influence and heavily divided, get exploited by the bipartisan ruling parties when in need to garner some extra votes.
In the past year, the PUK faced great difficulties in paying the salaries of public sector employees in Sulaymaniyah, leaving thousands of families suffering from the lack of monthly income.
The International Organization for Migration released a report in 2018 stating that around half the households in the Kurdistan region include at least one individual that is a government employee, also noting that almost 75% of all working women work in the public sector.
The International Labor Organization also reported that some 16% of Iraqi Kurdistan residents are unemployed.
According to the Foreign Policy report, almost a third of people with ages ranging between 15 and 24 are not getting an education, receiving training, or working - while the number of unemployed women exceeded that of men among all age groups.
Tens of thousands of people in Iraqi Kurdistan region leave every year, mostly to Europe, amid the worsening quality of life in the region, the Summit Foundation - a Sulaymaniyah-based non-profit - reported earlier.
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