According to many analysts, determining voter eligibility will determine the outcome of the referendum, as it is believed that voting will largely take place along ethnic lines. Defining the Kirkuki electorate is particularly challenging for a number of reasons. First, the “Arabization” policy of the Ba’athist regime forcibly displaced some 250,000 Kurds, Turkomans, and Assyrians from Kirkuk beginning in the 1970s; second, many Kirkukis displaced by “Arabization” have returned to the region following the 2003 invasion, however no census has been held to determine the makeup of the current population of Kirkuk; and finally, almost a decade of war has created a new group of IDPs in Kirkuk who previously had no ties to the region.
Article 140 of the Constitution does not naturally lend itself to the creation of residency requirements for voter eligibility, however some general principles in terms of voter eligibility are largely accepted. For example, it is generally agreed that individuals with no prior connection to Kirkuk, including Arab Baghdadi IDPs who have arrived in Kirkuk in the past few years, should be precluded from registration. Additionally, stakeholders concur that a good faith should be made to include the both formerly-expelled Kurds who have returned to Kirkuk, in addition to newly-displaced Arabs who had previously called Kirkuk home for decades, should yield reliable results.
The conduct of a census, as mandated by Article 140, would help to clarify some ambiguities regarding the Kirkuki electorate, but further steps must be taken to ensure that voter registration is honest and reliable, the integrity of the voter registry needs to be enhanced and protected, and all operations before and after the vote must strive to meet with international best practices.
What is CKRO?
The Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations (CKRO) is a collaborative initiative of the Center for Democracy and Society at Georgetown University. A policy institute and professional network, CKRO seeks to enable a successful vote in Iraq and refine the model for status referenda worldwide.
You can contact the Center at any time via email at CKRO@georgetown.edu.
From the Democracy and Society Blog
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