ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The United Nations will not support or oversee the referendum on independence that the Kurdistan Region has planned for September 25.
The UN’s office in Iraq and Electoral Assistance Office “has no intention to be engaged in any way or form as concerns the referendum,” it announced in a public statement on Wednesday.
According to the statement, the UN was responding to “inaccurate news reports” that its Iraq office, UNAMI, would “oversee, support or observe the referendum.”
UNAMI did state that they had met with the Kurdistan Region’s Independent High Electoral Commission (KIHEC) about the vote on Tuesday.
The head of the Kurdish election commission Handren Mohammed told reporters Tuesday following the meeting that the UN has shown willingness to help with training the newly-founded commission.
“They said that they do not interfere [in the referendum], and therefore their position was neutral. But they will support us with training and in writing the regulations of this process,” Mohammed said when asked about the UN position and involvement with regard to the scheduled referendum for independence.
The referendum will become the first time the KIHEC, which was founded in 2014 by the Kurdish parliament, will run an election in the Kurdistan Region.
Sherwan Zrar, spokesperson for the commission, however, told Rudaw on Thursday that the Commissioner did not mean the UN will support the Kurdistan Region in the referendum.
He said that the UN will instead provide “technical support, logistics – technical consultations” for the elections.
“Mr Handren was talking about the elections, not the referendum,” when he talked to the media that day, Zrar insisted.
Asked whether the UN would participate in the referendum process, Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, said last Thursday that the UN would participate in an electoral process “usually at the demand of the national authorities.”
Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the Kurdish presidency, told Rudaw on the weekend, three days before the meeting between the UN and the Kurdish election body, that the Kurdish authorities were to ask the UN to oversee the process.
“Normally the mandate of the United Nations is that they preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq. This is their job,” Hussein said, “But at the same time, the order that the president of Kurdistan Region has signed — and we will sent it out tomorrow to the concerned parties. In that order, it was mentioned that the representative of the United Nations, the representative of civil societies, the representatives of the foreign organizations, to oversee or take part in — to oversee this referendum … oversee not in the meaning that they are in charge, but with the meaning that they become monitors in the process of referendum.”