Street scene in Kirkuk. Photo: Rudaw
BAGHDAD, Iraq – After 13 years of being given a special status, Kirkuk is taking part in Iraqi provincial elections at the same time as other provinces on December 22.
Iraqi MPs who represent Kirkuk province – including Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmens – held a press conference on Saturday afternoon, declaring they have passed a law which allows the province to hold elections on December 22 along with other provinces.
Kirkuk MPs were delighted with the decision and congratulated the people of Kirkuk.
Rebwar Taha, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) MP for Kirkuk, said “we have decided to live together and die together.”
He explained the law will last for four years, and will therefore only apply to this term of elections.
Shakhawan Abdullah, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) MP for Kirkuk, said he hopes the situation in Kirkuk is normalized before the elections take place so that everyone can participate.
Due to rivalries between Turkmen and Arabs on one hand and Kurds on the other, provincial elections have not taken place in the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk since 2005.
As many as 900,000 voters are eligible to vote across the province.
Since 2003, Iraq has allowed Kirkuk to hold just one single provincial election due to its “exceptional status.”
Kirkuk was taken over by Baghdad on October 16 after Peshmerga forces pulled out in the face of a major assault.
Oil-rich Kirkuk is a flashpoint between Erbil and Baghdad, which both stake a claim to the province. It is one of the disputed areas and as such falls under Article 140 of the constitution.
Article 140 addresses the issue of the disputed areas claimed by both the regional and central governments. Under it, a census and referendum should have been held by 2007. This has never occurred.