Iraq’s Kurds vote 'yes' to independent state in referendum — official results

Syrian Kurds wave the Kurdish flag, in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli on September 26, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 28 September 2017
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Iraq’s Kurds vote 'yes' to independent state in referendum — official results

IRBIL: Iraq’s Kurds announced a massive “yes” vote for independence on Wednesday following a referendum that has incensed Baghdad and sparked international concern.
Official results showed 92.73 percent of voters backing statehood in Monday’s non-binding referendum, which Iraq’s central government rejected as illegal. Turnout was put at 72.61 percent.
Longtime Iraqi Kurd leader Masoud Barzani said the vote would not lead to an immediate declaration of independence and should instead open the door to negotiations.
But Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi told lawmakers on Wednesday there was no question of using its results as the basis for talks.
“The referendum must be annulled and dialogue initiated in the framework of the constitution. We will never hold talks based on the results of the referendum,” Abadi said.
“We will impose Iraqi law in the entire region of Kurdistan under the constitution,” he said.
Pressure has been mounting on the Kurds since the vote, not just from Baghdad but also from Ankara, with Turkey threatening a range of measures including cutting off key export routes for the region.
An overwhelming “yes” vote had been widely expected from the electorate of 4.58 million.
Pursuing a long-cherished dream of statehood, the Kurds went ahead with the referendum in defiance of widespread objections, including from the United Nations and United States.
It has raised fears of unrest and the possibility of a military confrontation involving the Kurds, who are key allies in internationally backed offensives against the jihadists of the Daesh group.
In a televised address late on Tuesday, Barzani had urged Abadi “not to close the door to dialogue because it is dialogue that will solve problems.”
“We assure the international community of our willingness to engage in dialogue with Baghdad,” he said, insisting the referendum was not meant “to delimit the border (between Kurdistan and Iraq), nor to impose it de facto.”

Baghdad pushes back 
Lawmakers on Wednesday passed a resolution calling on Abadi to “take all necessary measures to maintain Iraq’s unity” including by deploying security forces to disputed areas.
The resolution also called for the closure of border posts with Turkey and Iran that are outside central government control.
Abadi said Tuesday he would ban all international flights to and from Kurdistan in three days unless airports in its main cities Irbil and Sulaimaniyah were placed under his government’s control.
Airlines from Turkey as well as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon said Wednesday they will halt flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan this week until further notice at the request of Baghdad.
Turkey fears the vote will stoke the separatist ambitions of its own sizeable Kurdish minority and on Tuesday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Iraq’s Kurds risked sparking an “ethnic war.”
“If Barzani and the Kurdistan Regional Government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having dragged the region into an ethnic and sectarian war,” he said.
Erdogan had earlier warned that Turkey would shut its border with Iraqi Kurdistan and threatened to block oil exports from the region through his country.
Erdogan even suggested the possibility of a cross-border incursion similar to the one Turkey carried out against IS and Kurdish fighters in Syria.
Monday’s vote took place across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan — Irbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk — and in disputed border zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
Opponents have accused Barzani of seeking to empower himself through the vote, and said he should have accepted a UN-backed plan to postpone the referendum in favor of negotiations with Baghdad.
Iran, which also has a large Kurdish minority, condemned the vote as well and on Sunday stopped all flights from its territory to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.
Analysts say that despite their threats, Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran are proceeding cautiously in reacting to the vote, wary of sparking a serious confrontation with the Kurds that would further destabilize an already volatile region.
Closing their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan would also hurt Turkey, which exports more than $8 billion worth of goods every year to the region, and Iran, which exports about $6 billion.
Left without a state of their own when the borders of the Middle East were redrawn after World War I, the Kurds see themselves as the world’s largest stateless people.
The non-Arab ethnic group of between 25 and 35 million is spread across Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.


Vote gives Jordan’s premier ‘breathing space’

The confidence vote is likely to give Prime Minister Omar Razzaz room to introduce wide-ranging reforms at least until the end of the year. (Reuters)
Updated 29 min 54 sec ago
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Vote gives Jordan’s premier ‘breathing space’

  • Reformist leader Razzaz proves parliamentary majority after a week of intense debate
  • Razzaz came to power partially on the back of popular protests and, as a result, he didn’t need to make any deals

AMMAN: Jordan Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s comfortable victory in a parliamentary confidence vote has given the reformist leader some breathing space — for the time being at least.
Razzaz survived the vote by a 79-49 margin after a week of intense debate in the 130-member Parliament.
However, the embattled leader, who has been in office for only six weeks, knows the victory cannot be taken for granted.
The confidence vote is likely to give Razzaz room to introduce wide-ranging reforms at least until the end of the year. Jordan’s Parliament will return from recess in October and, short of an emergency, another vote of confidence is unlikely.
After the vote, Razzaz told his supporters: “The weight on our shoulders is heavy, the road is long, and we need stamina for the long run. I know you have high expectations and this is a big responsibility. May God help us to live up to this confidence.”
Riyad Alsubuh, a human rights lawyer, said that the vote was unique because it was not based on compromises.
“The Razzaz government didn’t make any deals with MPs in return for their votes, which has given the government unprecedented power. Razzaz came to power partially on the back of popular protests and, as a result, he didn’t need to make any deals.”
Voting was temporarily interrupted when an unemployed worker jumped from a balcony into the main hall. Razzaz left his seat and was later seen on video talking to the protesting worker and taking his personal information.
Before the vote Razzaz reassured the Parliament that although the country’s situation is difficult, “we can overcome if we work together.”
The premier’s s failure to make any special promises angered some MPs, who were hoping to trade their vote for something tangible to their communities.
Assem Rababa, director of the Adaleh Center, told Arab News that some government supporters believed they were losing their influence in reforming election law.
“Key people close to the government felt that this new government competes with them. The speaker of the Parliament had a role in helping Razzaz win the vote.”
Saed Karajeh, a lawyer and political observer, said that some MPs voted out of confusion.
“The prime minister had a month to prepare and can’t be expected to come up with fully developed plans. If he did, it would have been rushed. I am surprised by many of the MPs who have been preaching reform and then voted against the Razzaz government.”
Sinan Sweiss, a Jordan publisher, said that security issues are harming the country.
“Having a strong security system is essential, but allowing security to overrule all other areas in the governance and society is harming our country. We are losing our best people, those who are able to change or improve things here.”
Sweiss, who is active in the civil state movement, said that while Razzaz is a reformer, he has been attacked much more than other prime ministers.
“MPs from the civil coalition voted against him, while those with money and ego voted for him.”
One issue that dominated the discussion was the fact that seven members of the Razzaz government are women.
Members of the Islamic ActionFront criticized Razzaz because all seven fail to wear the head cover (hijab).
Obaida Abdo, a television presenter who focuses on women’s issues, said that Razzaz showed his humanity throughout the discussions, while the MPs were hypocrites.
“Many of those who support the policies and person of Razzaz voted against him, which reflects the chaos that has become a hallmark of consecutive governments in Jordan,” she said.