PUK politburo consigns all powers of Lahur Sheikh Jangi to Bafel Talabani
The political bureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) decided on Saturday, July 17, to hand over all powers of Lahur Shaikh Jangi as co-leader to Bafel Talabani, the PUK co-president.

After the meeting of PUK political bureau on Thursday, it was decided that Sheikh Jangi would hand over all of his powers as co-leader to PUK co-president Talabani from Saturday.

The development is the result of more than a week of public, inter-factional tensions between the two co-presidents.

In a document outlining the decision, the change was approved unanimously by the members of the party's politburo and will go into effect immediately.

The party will work in the coming days to revise its internal leadership structure to reflect the change.

The co-leadership arrangement was the result of the outcome of the PUK’s Fourth Party Congress held in December 2019, where Sheikh Jangi unexpectedly emerged with the most votes for the party’s powerful General Leadership Council.

The outcome reflected his popularity with the grassroots of the party, who appreciated his willingness to vocally criticize the PUK’s historical rival and governing partner, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The vote upended plans to solidify power around longtime party leader Jalal Talabani’s sons, Bafel and Qubad, the latter of which currently serves as Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) deputy prime minister.

In response, the party devised the co-presidency arrangement as a compromise. The rivalry between the new co-leaders and their camps remained potent, despite occasional shows of unity.

On July 8, those tensions erupted into public view when a nominee for the party’s Zanyari intelligence agency who was backed by Sheikh Jangi was rejected by the KRG’s Security Council with the backing of Kurdistan Regional President Nechirvan Barzani’s office. The Security Council is dominated by KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani. The Barzanis are senior members of the KDP.

The position was then filled by an official backed by the Talabani brothers, touching off a series of dramatic events, which ultimately resulted in Sheikh Jangi’s fall from power within the party.

Shortly thereafter, his brother, Polad, was replaced as head of the powerful Counterterrorism Service by another Talabani pick.

On July 13, a media outlet loyal to Sheikh Jangi that was under development was raided by security forces loyal to the Talabani camp. Dozens of journalists were briefly detained, equipment was broken, and the office was closed. Social media accounts of other outlets supportive of Sheikh Jangi were locked.

The Talabanis also indirectly accused Sheikh Jangi of a variety of offenses, including corruption, smuggling, and spying.

Across several statements and public appearances, Sheikh Jangi gave mixed signals about his intention to resist the intra-party assault on his position, but in the end offered little substantive pushback.

Earlier indications had been that the politburo would meet after Eid al-Adha, which is expected to be celebrated in the coming days, but its members appear to have moved more quickly to formally remove Sheikh Jangi from his position.

Reporter's code: 50101