Over 92 percent of Iraq’s Kurds vote “yes” to independent state

World Today

In Iraq, the results of a controversial Kurdish referendum on independence are in. Over 92 percent of Iraq’s Kurds voted “yes” in Monday’s landmark vote.

The referendum—and the outcome—have been angrily rejected by Baghdad and regional powers. Iraq’s Prime Minister called it a “historic mistake”, vowing to keep the country united.

CGTN’s Tony Cheng reports.

Ethnic Kurds celebrate voting in the independence referendum in the disputed territory of Kirkuk.

But in this controversial election, will the result be decisive?

On Wednesday afternoon, after two days of deliberation, the region’s election commission had the answer.

“We counted 2,761,471 votes, which means 92.73 percent of people voted yes,” Sherwan Zerar, spokesman for the Election Commission said.

That’s a high turnout and a decisive response. The Kurds have spoken – but is anybody listening?

Not Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, who said, “We are not ready to discuss or have a dialogue about the results of the referendum because it is unconstitutional, illegitimate and its measures are incorrect, whether in accordance with international and Iraqi measures or measures observed by the region itself.”

On the ground, the response of Iraq’s Prime Minister was echoed with military exercises— joint maneuvers with Turkish troops intended to simulate a land invasion.

Similar exercises are taking place on Iran’s border as the Kurds’ neighbors express their distinct displeasure at the vote. But the first impact is likely to be felt by travelers trying to leave.

Fewer international flights have been arriving here in Erbil since the Iranian government shut down its airspace the day before the referendum.

If the Iraqi government decides to follow suit on Friday, the Kurdish autonomous region could find itself completely cut off.

Several airlines have already said they will close down flights by Friday afternoon, and several foreign embassies have urged their nationals to leave.

The Kurds may have taken the first steps toward founding a nation, but it will be born into a hostile world.