Iraqi federal court leaps into PUK leadership dispute

Iraqi federal court leaps into PUK leadership dispute
A Baghdad-based court is looking into leadership issues within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a main ruling party in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. 
3 min read
12 July, 2022
An Iraqi man walks past a posters of Iraq's former president late Jalal Talabani, outside the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Baghdad. [Getty]

An Iraqi federal court has reportedly been looking into the leadership issues inside PUK after last year's internal issues in which the party's co-presidents are feuding over who should run the party, according to court documents posted online by the two disputing sides. 

PUK is a major Kurdish political party and member of the Socialist International Organization. It was founded in 1975 by several Kurdish politicians, including Jalal Talabani, who became secretary-general of the party and then president of Iraq.  Talabani died in October 2017.  

PUK members elected Lahur Jangi and Bafel Talabani, the nephew and elder son of late Talabani respectively, as co-leaders of the party in 2020. 

On Monday Facebook pages close to Lahur, with several local Kurdish outlets, published a document reportedly issued by Al-Karkh Initial Court in Baghdad and was addressed to the political party's office at Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).

According to the document, the court ruled that until the dossier is settled the decision of sacking Lahur and changes within the PUK's manifesto and bylaws would be withheld.

The court also decided to "confiscate" the PUK's dossier at IHEC until a final decision is made.   

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Later in the day, PUK media outlets loyal to Bafel denied the claims and published another document by the same court reportedly proving that the complaint filed by Lahur's lawyer had been rejected on 12 June, because of a failure in bringing "needed proof."   

TNA has contacted close allies to Lahur and Soran Jamal Tahir, PUK's formal spokesperson, but they were not immediately unavailable to comment.

TNA also contacted Stran Abdulla, head of the PUK media bureau but he declined to answer questions. Instead, he sent a copy of their statement and alleged court document to TNA.  

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The tensions inside the party erupted last year on 8 July, when Bafl fired his cousin Lahur from the party after accusing him of "conspiracy and being behind poisoning him".  

Bafel Talabani took over the party as sole leader. He removed the heads of the PUK's counter-terrorism and intelligence forces – both of which were overseen by Jangi – and appointed new heads for both organisations.

Lahur, on his part, denied the accusations and resorted to the judiciary in the Kurdistan region as well as the federal courts in Baghdad to settle the dispute. 

Under Iraq's informal "muhasasa" power-sharing system, Iraq's president must be an ethnic Kurd, the prime minister a Shia and the speaker of parliament a Sunni. 

PUK wants the term of Barham Salih, president since 2018, to be renewed, but its rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), wants to elect Rebar Ahmed as president.