ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — As the election commission makes official preparations for the Kurdistan Region to hold a referendum on independence, the verbiage of the online voting ballots has been published.
“Do you want the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistani areas outside the administration of the Region to become an independent state?” reads the official paper from the election commission that was first approved on August 8 but released by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Department of Foreign Relations (DFR) this week.
Registration for those in diaspora begins on September 1 and continues through September 7. During that week, eligible voters can visit www.khec.krd to fill in an online registration form.
The diaspora will vote on September 23 from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Erbil time, two days before the people in Kurdistan.
According to the paper from the election commission, also published by the Department of Foreign Relations, voters abroad must meet four criteria: be at least 18-years old, have registered with the Voters’ Registration Database, have registered in the E-Voting Database, and be a citizen of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) or Kurdistani territories that are not organized under KRI.
Eligible voters can choose a simple “Yes” or “No” on the single-question ballot.
The election commission has also asked that foreign media or observers submit their requests from August 20 through September 20 to report and observe the process.
Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to the Kurdish presidency, told Rudaw in June after the announcement of the referendum that “Yes” and “No” would be the only two responses on the ballot.
In a meeting with nearly all parties of the Kurdistan Region on June 6, it was announced that the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence would be set for September.
The local vote will take place on September 25.
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani who also chairs the High Referendum Council has said that debating the date of the referendum is out of the question.
The vote also includes the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.
Barzani has said that the people in the disputed areas are free to vote yes or no, and that Erbil will respect their decision either way.
"Definitely," Barzani said in June, Erbil would not be opposed to a ‘No’ vote to independence in the disputed areas. "If the people of these areas want to organize and the majority say, ‘We don’t want to be with Kurdistan,’ we have full respect for the decision of that people in that area."
Barzani also believes the no-voters should not be shunned when asked by a man whether some of the media outlets of his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are doing so.
“I am not with labeling people as traitor. And I will recommend it to the KDP media they do not have the right to label anyone a traitor, and this is not acceptable,” he said on Tuesday in a meeting with the Civil Society Organization.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Barzani, and the Change Movement (Gorran) have thus far not reached an agreement on the re-activation or normalization of parliament, which hasn’t met in nearly two years after a fallout between the two parties and hold the most seats in the Kurdistan Region’s legislative branch.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the third largest party in Kurdistan, is expected to meet with Gorran to push one last time for a negotiated end to the political stalemate.
In the Kurdistan Region’s first parliamentary elections in 1992, a total of 971,953 individuals voted. In the most recent vote, provincial elections in 2014, the number of people who cast a ballot was 2,129,846.
Since that time, the Kurdish Peshmerga fought to liberate from ISIS many areas in the Nineveh Plains and near Kirkuk — outside of the provinces of Duhok, Erbil, Sulaimani and Halabja. These “Kurdistani” areas are often diverse and claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.