Friday, September 3, 2010

After a year of its rise, what the Change Movement has changed in political landscape

By Aso Ali


One year ago and as an outcome the elections of July 2009 of Kurdistan region a new political movement came to existence as the first publicly announced political movement to play the role of opposition. Back then, some believed that the Change Movement was just a reaction of some individual politicians attempting to promote their power and position and so the movement would be short lived phenomenon. Today, after one year, actually a short time to assess the impacts of a parliamentary movement when still there are three years remain, one can see evident achievement of this movement in terms of activating the function of our parliament, promoting the public awareness of groups and individuals of their position within Kurdistan political system.

Before the rise of the Change Movement, our parliament was not more than just an assembly working just to approve what it was asked to approve by the two ruling parties political bureaus. If parliaments in democracies are rule makers, in the past our parliament was rubber stamp, it was doing what it was asked to do not what it had to do. In this context, rarely there was any real debate under its dome. Rather than restricting the works of the executive, the parliament function was to the degree of crippling. This has changed since the emergence of the Change Movement as the key opposition block inside the parliament. This has been evident in the lively hard debates on the national budget law thanks to the challenge which the Change MPs made to break the silent atmosphere which the parliament had accustomed to. For the first time, the Change MPs publicly made it clear that the National Assembly is the supreme to the executive as the case with other true democracies of the world. This can be considered as a watershed in the history of life of parliament in our region.

More than that, the Change MPs destroyed the barrier which existed between the ordinary people and their representatives. Previously, the people could only see the MPs through the screens of their TVs or where and when the MPs wanted. Now, the MPs, basically those of Change Movement, are coming into daily contact with people, listen to them, bring take their demands and complains into inside the parliament. People feel that they can have impact and their votes can make difference. When they see their demands are discussed under the dome of parliament they realize that they are part of a meaningful political community whose institutions can be mechanisms for their wellbeing.

Still, it is too early to make a clear assessment of the role that the Change Movement plays in promoting parliamentary life and democratic transition in our region. But if the past year is taken as the measure, more optimistic view is justifiable regarding the direction which our political system has taken as the result of the emergence of an active opposition movement represented by the Change Movement.

Aso Ali is a researcher in Arbil, the regional capital