The Iraqi parliament has voted to dismiss the governor of the northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk after the provincial council voted to take part in the upcoming Kurdish independence referendum irrespective of the central government’s strong opposition to the planned vote. An unnamed parliamentary source told Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network on Thursday that Iraqi legislators had voted […]
The Iraqi parliament has voted to dismiss the governor of the northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk after the provincial council voted to take part in the upcoming Kurdish independence referendum irrespective of the central government’s strong opposition to the planned vote.
An unnamed parliamentary source told Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network on Thursday that Iraqi legislators had voted on removing Najmiddin Karim from office.
Earlier in the day, the office of Iraqi parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri announced in a statement that it had received a request from the office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi demanding a voting session to discharge 68-year-old Karim.
Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, has rejected the Iraqi parliament’s vote on the dismissal of the Kirkuk governor.
“The decision comes from an Arab legislature rather than a federal one,” said KDP Deputy Chairman Shakhawan Abdullah.
The Iraqi parliament’s decision regarding provinces within the Kurdistan region is not recognized by the KRG as the Kirkuk governor declined on August 18 to lower the flag of the Kurdistan region in the face of a court ruling to replace the flag with Iraq’s national flag, Abdullah pointed out.
On August 29, 22 of the 24 councilors present in the 41-member Kirkuk council voted in favor of holding the Kurdish independence referendum.
Abadi described the vote by Kirkuk provincial council as a wrong move, adding that the planned referendum was illegal and worthless.
The Iraqi government spokesman, Saad al-Hadithi, also lambasted the vote as “illegal and unconstitutional.”
Furthermore, the Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced the Kirkuk provincial council’s decision as “a serious violation of the Iraqi constitution.”
The ministry said in a statement that the decision was made amid the boycott by local Arab and Turkmen blocs, describing the move as “a new episode in the series of mistakes.”
It further highlighted that the September 25 referendum was a mistake itself, explaining that insistence on treading a “dangerous path” would serve neither the Middle East region nor Iraq.
Karim is a staunch supporter of the Kurdish independence referendum.
The Iraqi parliament voted on Tuesday to reject the plebiscite, requiring the prime minister and the central government in Baghdad to “take all steps to protect the unity of Iraq and open a serious dialogue” with Kurdish leaders. The decision prompted a walkout by Kurdish lawmakers.
Barzani condemns Iraqi parliament vote
In a related development on Thursday, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani, speaking at a pro-referendum rally in Zakho, a city in Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan, condemned the vote by the Iraqi parliament.
He said Baghdad had left no room for negotiations over the independence referendum, according to Kurdish TV channel, Kurdistan 24.
Iraqi parliament vote ‘unlawful’
Meanwhile, Karim, himself, condemned as “unlawful” the vote by the Iraqi lawmakers to remove him and vowed to remain in power.
“I will stay in office,” Kareem told Reuters, hours after the parliamentary vote, adding, “The referendum will go ahead as planned.”
Barzani adviser rejects governor dismissal
Following the vote, Hoshyar Zebari, an adviser to Barzani, said that the Iraqi parliament “has no right” to remove Kirkuk’s governor from office.
“He is an elected governor of the council of Kirkuk,” said Zebari, adding, “That is the only body that can remove him.”
‘Kurdish independence referendum historic mistake’
Furthermore, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag has hailed the Iraqi parliament’s decision to reject the referendum on Kurdish independence.
“Barzani’s referendum decision is a historic mistake. Turkey will follow policies that take Iraq’s territorial integrity as a basis,” Bozdag said.
“The northern Iraq referendum must be cancelled, if not it will have a cost and retribution,” he added, warning that the move would endanger regional peace and cause security risks.
Kurdish lawmakers to study Western plan to delay vote
Meanwhile, Kurdish leaders will study a Western delegation’s plan to delay the September referendum, according to a Thursday statement from the Kurdish presidency.
A delegation from the US, UN and UK met with Barzani on Thursday with a proposal to postpone the referendum vote to prevent disruption of the US-led coalition’s alleged fight against the Daesh terrorist group.
In June, Abadi described as untimely the decision by Barzani to hold the referendum.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state-run TRT Haber television news network last month that the Iraqi Kurdistan region’s plans to hold the independence referendum would lead to a “civil war” in Iraq.
Iran has also expressed opposition to the “unilateral” scheme, underlining the need to maintain the integrity and stability of Iraq and insisting that the Kurdistan region is part of the majority Arab state.