The gap between the democratic rhetoric and the party-first reality has widened under the long-serving lions of Kurdish politics: the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), whose leader Massoud Barzani is president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG); and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), who leader Jalal Talabani is now president of Iraq.
"The PUK and KDP until recent years had a very romantic relationship with the people; they were the tools of the people against Saddam Hussein and people loved that," says one Kurdish analyst who could not be named for fear of reprisals. "But that image has been shattered – it doesn't exist anymore."
There are indeed some progressive laws on the books, and in fact internal divisions in both parties over the use of force and content of reform. But recent steps point to an authoritarian tendency especially in KDP areas, where yet more Barzani family have recently been given top posts. PUK influence has declined since the breakaway Goran [Change] movement took up the opposition role.