Disputed Territories a Major Challenge to Kurdish Referendum

Unlike the Kurdistan Region where data from previous elections is available, there is no reliable data on the disputed areas that IHERC can readily rely on for the voter registration. Therefore, given the time constraint and the difficulty of determining voter eligibility, it is unlikely that IHERC will be able to hold a referendum Sept. 25 in the disputed territories.

In the past, due to the difficulty of determining who will be eligible to vote, neither census nor referendum (two crucial stages of Article 140) was implemented. In other words, due to the history of forced displacement from Kirkuk under the Arabization process and returning a large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) since 2003, defining a voter registry was particularly challenging.

Further complicating the matter, since the emergence of the Islamic State in the last three years, a new group of IDPs has emerged in Kirkuk governorate. Not only because IHERC doesn’t have enough time to figure out this complex matter, but also the commission is sharply divided over Barzani’s call for the referendum. One of the nine members of IHERC resigned on July 24, claiming that there is no serious intent by the commission to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in the Kurdistan Region as well as the upcoming referendum.

Amid all of these practical and technical challenges, holding a referendum on Sept. 25 will be difficult — if not impossible. These challenges can prevent the referendum from taking place in the first place or they might oblige Barzani to postpone the referendum, particularly in the disputed territories.

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