Kurdistan independence movement


Polls open in Iraqi Kurdistan to vote on independence

PUBLISHED Mon, September 25, 2017 - 1:21am EDT
Credit: Rudaw

Polls have opened across Kurdistan in northern Iraq to vote on whether the autonomous region should become an independent country, even though the central government in Baghdad strongly objects to the vote. (more)

Polls opened at 8 a.m. local time on Monday and voters were seen waiting in line at several polling stations in Erbil, the region's capital. The polling stations - more than 2,000 of them - are scheduled to remain open until 6 p.m. local time.

Voters are being asked whether they want Kurdistan and disputed areas outside the region's administration to become an independent state. An estimated 5.6 million people who live in Kurdistan and areas under its control are eligible to vote, according to the regional government.

Voters are widely expected to vote in favor of independence, although official results are not expected until Tuesday.

Monday's referendum will not automatically lead to statehood and it remains unclear how the regional government will proceed, but Baghdad is strongly opposed to an independent Kurdistan, as are neighbors such as Turkey who fear a spread of separatism among their own Kurdish populations.

Turkey immediately condemned the vote as polls opened in Kurdistan, stating that the referendum is "null and void" in terms of consequences. "We do not recognize this initiative, which lacks legal basis and legitimacy with regard to international law and the Iraqi constitution," the foreign ministry said.

The ministry added that the vote could endanger peace and stability in Iraq and the wider region as a whole. "Turkey has stressed on every occasion that the grave mistake committed by the [Kurdish government] will have a price and within this framework has identified the sanctions that will be levied," the ministry said.

The push for independence has raised concern that it could spark a regional conflict at a time when the Islamic State group (ISIS) is quickly losing territory, but Kurdish officials have said their operations against ISIS are continuing as usual.

A Yes vote would give Iraqi Kurds more leverage in their negotiations with the central government.

Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani, who has long campaigned for a vote on independence, told the Voice of America on Saturday that he hoped his government could soon begin talks with Baghdad to discuss issues such as border demarcation and a timeline for declaring independence.

Barzani, who has blamed the central government for failing to accept a partnership with Kurdistan, has kept the door open for a compromise.

  Erbil, Iraq        2 UPDATES



More Updates

 5 months   Iraqi Kurdistan to hold independence referendum on September 25

              The autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq is pushing ahead with plans to hold an independence referendum later this month, despite strong opposition from the central government in Baghdad. (more) Read More

  Erbil, Iraq        2 UPDATES



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