You are here

Iraq MPs vote against Kurdish independence referendum

By AFP - Sep 12,2017 - Last updated at Sep 12,2017

Supporters of the ‘NO For Now’ movement attend a rally calling on Iraqi Kurds to vote against the referendum in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, on Saturday (Reuters photo)

BAGHDAD — Iraq's parliament on Tuesday voted against plans by Kurdish leaders to hold an independence referendum just two weeks before it was to be held, echoing regional criticism of the poll.

The non-binding referendum planned for September 25 has faced strong opposition from neighbouring Iran and Turkey, which fear it will stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizeable Kurdish minorities.

Critics of the vote, including the United States and the European Union and even members of the 5.5 million-strong Iraqi Kurdish population, say it could distract from the fight against jextremists.

Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces have played a key role in battling the Daesh extremist group which captured swathes of the country in 2014, and the fight has borne fruit in recent months.

The vote — which prompted a walkout by Kurdish lawmakers — came as the Kurdish parliament said it would meet on Thursday, for the first time in two years, to vote on the referendum.

Iraqi parliament speaker Salim Al Juburi, a Sunni Arab, said the vote required the Baghdad government to “take all steps to protect the unity of Iraq and open a serious dialogue” with Iraqi Kurdish leaders.

But Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, who is organising the referendum, said from the disputed city of Kirkuk that the poll would be held because “all other bids” to secure Kurdish rights “have failed”.

The referendum could lead to the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, an oil-rich region in the country’s rugged, mountainous north which gained de facto autonomy in 1991.

However, the region, whose people were brutally repressed under former dictator Saddam Hussein, won autonomy in 2005 under a constitution which set up a federal republic in Iraq.

Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi and other top officials have said repeatedly that the referendum would violate Iraq’s constitution.

Juburi on Tuesday argued against the referendum, saying the federal parliament “strives for the unity of Iraq and rejects its division under any reason”.

The parliament, he said, “has set what can be the subject of a referendum, and Kurdistan is not one of those cases”.

The vote in the federal parliament was held at the request of 80 lawmakers.

On February 3, 2016, Barzani said the “time has come” for the country’s Kurds to hold a referendum on statehood.

“This referendum would not necessarily lead to [an] immediate declaration of statehood, but rather to know the will and opinion of the people of Kurdistan about their future,” he said at the time.

Kurdish leaders have later said a “yes” vote would pave the way for the start of “serious negotiations” with the Baghdad government.

Iraqi Kurdistan is made up of three provinces that are run by an autonomous regional government and protected by their own security services.

 

The concept of an independent state is seen as a dream come true for a broad spectrum of Iraqi Kurds, some in the community fear the referendum could undermine plans to pursue the battle against Daesh.

up
16 users have voted.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
12 + 7 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Opinion

Newsletter

Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.