TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Voters are heading to the polls in the Iraqi Kurdistan region to vote in a referendum which have been called illegal by the Iraqi government and has been opposed by the international community and the neighboring countries.
Polling stations opened their doors at 8:00 am (1.00 am, ET) and should close at 6:00 pm. The final results should be announced within 72 hours.
The question being posed in Kurdish, Turkmen, Arabic and Assyrian languages is: Do you want the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistani areas outside the administration of the Region to become an independent state? Voters can choose ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
A total 5,338,000 people are eligible to vote in the referendum. The vote will be held in the four provinces of the Kurdistan Region: Duhok, Erbil, Sulaimani, and Halabja. A total of 3,280,462 people are eligible to vote from these four provinces.
Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Region, voted at around 8:30 a.m. in Erbil.
Voting started for the Kurdish diaspora on September 23 and will continue throughout today. Results so far show that close to 98 percent of Kurdistanis living abroad have voted Yes.
Campaigning ended on Friday without any major political party voicing opposition to the process.
The election commission that oversees the process has said that they are expecting initial results to come out within 24 hours after the polls close at 6:00 p.m. local Erbil time.
In the meantime, Iraq's disputed territories in particular, the oil-rich Kirkuk have long been a source of contention between Baghdad and the Kurds.
The oil-rich province roads which lies outside of the official borders of the Kurd's semi-autonomous territory and is home to Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Christians are a little quieter than usual as residents take stock of the situation. Some families are weathering the possible storm in neighboring towns and cities, while others have been collecting extra food items like flour and rice.
As Iraq’s Kurds are rushing headlong into a vote for independence, all neighbors and countries in the Middle East, including Iran and Turkey, were trying to persuade the Erbil government to cancel the referendum.
They warn that the vote could unleash ethnic violence, tear Iraq apart and fracture the forces combatting Daesh (ISIL) terrorists.
The UN Security Council has also warned of the potentially destabilizing impact of the planned referendum.