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The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is in a fragile condition as its two main components have failed to protect the political system from fragmentation. Increasing strains between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have raised concerns over a possible renewed division of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, heightened by memories of the brutal Kurdish civil war in the 1990s. This shift is reflected in debates among analysts. Previously focused on the possibility of full statehood and independence from Iraq, many observers now instead see further fragmentation in Iraqi Kurdistan.
One government, two administrations
The nominally unified Kurdistan region is de facto divided in respect to security, and increasingly in terms of finances and governance as well. Some observers describe a “dual administration,” with Iraqi Kurdistan split between KDP-controlled zones centered around the regional capital Erbil, and areas under PUK oversight with Sulaimaniyah at their core. Current dynamics between the two parties have led to concerns that the Kurdistan region could return to the pre-2005 system, when the KDP and the PUK led two distinct, separate governments.
Kurdish officials have warned of the consequences of these divisions. KRG Vice President Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa in November asserted that there was no longer an alliance between the PUK and KDP, saying that although “a dual administration may not be announced publicly, it is present behind the scenes.” Dana Abdulkarim, the KRG’s Minister of Housing and Reconstruction, in October said that “up until now, we are yet to have a unified government. There are two administrations in governance and finances.” Partisan differences are so acute that the PUK has since December...
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