In a session boycotted by Turkmen and Arab deputies, the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) voted Tuesday in favor of joining the planned independence referendum by northern Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on September 25.
Turkmen council member Ali Mehdi told Anadolu Agency that 24 members attended to the session, and the members who did not attend would apply to Iraq's Supreme Court regarding the voting.
There are 26 Kurdish members in the KPC, along with nine Turkmen and six Arab members.
While both Turkey and Iraq strongly object to the KRG's referendum decision because of its less-than-optimal timing amid an ongoing war against Daesh and PKK terror groups, the status of Kirkuk is much more contentious.
Although the countryside of Kirkuk is predominantly inhabited by Kurds, Arabs and Iraqi Turkmens largely populate the city itself. The region was subjected to an Arabization policy during the Baath Party rule, but after the invasion in 2003, this policy was reversed in favor of Kurds, prompting protests by the local Arab and Turkmen population and raising concerns in Ankara and Baghdad.
The oil-rich Kirkuk province is cited to be among the disputed territories between the Iraqi central government and the KRG, which is defined in Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, adopted after U.S. invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Accordingly, the administrative statuses of these areas were to be determined with referendums by 2007, but the referendums have not yet been held due to political turmoil in the country.
During the Daesh terrorist group's advance in northwestern Iraq in June 2014, KRG forces assumed control of the city.
In early April, the KPC ruled to hold a referendum on the status of the disputed province and annexation by KRG in a vote that followed the controversial decision to hoist KRG flags alongside Iraqi flags in Kirkuk. Turkmen and Arab members also boycotted the two sessions.
The KPC backed down from both decisions as Ankara and Baghdad issued strong objections against changing the status quo in Kirkuk. The demographic composition in the city has significantly changed since 2003, with the transformation process accelerating during the war against Daesh.