Kurdistan Democratic Party

   The preeminent Kurdish party in Iraq, the Kurdish Democratic Party (renamed Kurdistan Democratic Party in 1953 to indicate that it represented all the people in Iraqi Kurdistan, not just the Kurds), is essentially a nationalist and traditionalist party that has been dominated by the Barzanis.
   The KDP was founded at a meeting in Baghdad on 16 August 1946 in response to Mulla Mustafa Barzani's wishes to create financial and political independence from Qazi Muhammad and the Mahabad Republic of Kurdistan. The remnants of at least four different political groups took part in the proceedings: Hiwa, Shoresh (Revolution; a Kurdish communist group), Rizgari (Liberation; a popular front group that sought freedom and unity for Kurdistan), and the Iraqi branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI). Barzani was elected president (in exile), Hamza Abdullah secretary-general, and two landlords, Sheikh Latif (son of Sheikh Mahmud Barzinji) and Sheikh Ziad Agha vice presidents.
   The KDP's program was vague, speaking of the Kurds' national goals and their desire to live in a state of their own choice. The program lacked any progressive social or economic substance due to the dominance held by the traditional tribal leaders. The new party did decide to publish a monthly called Rizgari (Liberation), later changed to Khebat (Struggle). Given Barzani's long exile in the Soviet Union and the dominant position of traditional tribal views, however, the KDP played only a minor role for some time. Ibrahim Ahmed, a progressive socialist, joined the KDP following the collapse of the Mahabad Republic at the end of 1946. The KDPI's representative in Sulaymaniya, Ahmed had originally opposed the KDP's creation because it seemed to contradict the idea of pan-Kurdish unity. Now Ahmed began to lead the leftists who were opposed to the KDP's sole stress on mere Kurdish nationalism. An intraparty struggle broke out between Ahmed and Hamza Abdullah, apparently Barzani's representative. Eventually Ahmed won, but without Barzani's enthusiastic approval. For a while in the late 1950s, the KDP called itself the United KDP to indicate Ahmed's and Abdullah's temporary reunion and the addition of the Kurdish section of the Iraqi Communist Party. The fall of the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq and Barzani's return from exile in 1958, however, hastened renewed conflict within the KDP
   Thus began the struggle between the more conservative and traditional, Kurmanji-speaking, tribal wing of the KDP associated with Barzani against the leftist, intellectual, Sorani-speaking Marxist wing (the so-called KDP Politburo) led by Ahmed and his son-in-law, Jalal Talabani.
   In 1964, Barzani signed a cease-fire accord with Baghdad without even informing the KDP Politburo. Both KDP factions expelled each other, but Barzani won the day by driving the KDP Politburo over the Iranian frontier. Although Ahmed and Talabani rejoined Barzani, they soon broke away again. Barzani remained allied with Iran, while Ahmed and Talabani developed ties with the Baathists. Although this intra-KDP split was basic, given Barzani's predominance, eventually Ahmed and Talabani again contritely returned to the KDP, which had become Barzani's virtual fiefdom.
   After Barzani's collapse in March 1975, his unified KDP broke into several factions. One even joined a KDP splinter already cooperating with Baghdad. Dr. Mahmud Osman, once Barzani's leading aide, broke with him and formed the KDP/Preparatory committee. The real heirs of Barzani's KDP, however, proved to be his two sons, the half brothers Idris Barzani and Massoud Barzani. They joined another former associate of their father, Muhammad (Sami) Abdul Rahman, to form the KDP/Provisional Command. In 1979, this Barzani-led faction resumed the old name of KDP. In time this new KDP grew to be the strongest Kurdish party in Iraq. Following the death of Idris Barzani in 1987, Massoud Barzani became its undisputed leader. In June 1975, Talabani founded his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Barzani's KDP and Talabani's PUK became the two main rivals for power in Iraqi Kurdistan, a situation that continues into the 21st century.
   At the present time, Massoud Barzani remains the undisputed president of the KDP, and Ali Abdullah continues to serve as the vice president. The political bureau (politburo) consists of Azad Barwari, Masrour Barzani, Nechirvan Idris Barzani, Fadhil Merani, Zaim Ali Osman, Jawhar Namiq Salem, Dr. Rojh Shaways, and Hoshyar Zibari (these names are simply listed in alphabetical order, not precedence). There is also a central committee with 20 members and nine other substitutes.
   Currently, KDP leader Massoud Barzani serves as the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), while Nechirvan Barzani served as the prime minister until the parliamentary election of 25 July 2009 that led to his replacement by Barham Salih, according to a previously reached understanding between the KDP and PUK. These most recent elections saw the KDP maintain its electoral strength, while its rival/partner PUK lost some of its support to the Gorran (Change) party led by the former number two leader of the PUK, Nawshirwan Mustafa. Massoud Barzani also was reelected president in these elections of July 2009 by almost 70 percent of the popular vote of 2.5 million voters.
   Nevertheless, along with its longtime rival the PUK, the KDP has ruled the KRG since 2003 in a joint Kurdistani List that has dominated the recent elections, but this also resulted in charges of collusion against any meaningful democratic competition. In addition, there have been claims of corruption and nepotism leveled against the Barzani family and its continuing dominance over the KDP. Some estimate that since 1991, the Barzanis have amassed a fortune of more than $2 billion as well as establishing extensive business ties in the KRG region. In addition, some would maintain that the ultimate power in the KRG is still held by the KDP and PUK, not the KRG government, which of course is largely the two aforementioned parties. Most observers, however, would still argue that the Barzani-led KDP has played a most important and patriotic role in fostering social and economic development as well as democracy in the KRG region. History will be the ultimate judge.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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