After 26 years of governing oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan, the region's two main political parties are on the verge of economic and political bankruptcy.
While officials of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) live in luxurious houses with 24/7 electricity, the majority of residents have not been receiving their salaries, which had previously been reduced, and the Kurdish economy is in a free fall, creating unprecedented levels of poverty and resentment. The situation has become so dangerously unstable that a senior peshmerga commander on Feb. 11 threatened to seize oil tankers unless the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) pays soldiers' their salaries.
"No one can deny that the PUK and the KDP are scared," Jamil Kheder, an Erbil trader who has voted KDP all his life, told Al-Monitor. "In the past, people were scared that the PUK and the KDP would cut off their salaries if they didn't vote for them, but now [the parties] can't even pay those salaries and are worried that we'll punish them in the [next] election."
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