On October 24, 2009 Iraq is set to conduct a national census. This will be the first one held since the overthrow of Saddam. Its results will have the largest effect upon the disputed area of Kirkuk in Tamim province. Article 140 of the constitution called for a census in Tamim before a referendum on the future of Kirkuk could be conducted no later than December 31, 2007. Neither happened. The Kurds want the census to occur because they are the majority in the province, and it would create facts on the ground to support their claim to the area. Arabs and Kurds in Tamim are therefore opposed to it. They claim that the Kurdish parties moved in thousands of their followers into the province after the U.S. invasion, sometimes by force, thus gerrymandering the demographics in their favor. The Kurds dispute this, claiming that the returns were simply people who were forcibly displaced by Saddam’s Arabization policy. Neither side appears willing to compromise.
The government survey will also be of importance because it will determine the voting rolls for the province. Tamim has still not had provincial elections, which were held in January 2009, and unless the census happens there, may not participate in the January 2010 parliamentary elections either.
As usual, Iraq’s political leaders are unable to deal with this dilemma. Some Turkmen political parties say they want Baghdad to delay the census until it can figure out how many Kurds moved to Tamim after 2003. They have threatened a boycott of the census if this doesn’t happen, and the Arabs may join them. In parliament, one proposal is to simply drop Tamim from the national census. Another is to push ahead with a referendum and parliamentary elections in Kirkuk without one. A major sticking point is that the presidential committee, which includes Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, will veto any law devised by parliament unfavorable to the Kurds. The most likely scenario then, is that parliament will do nothing, and Tamim will be excluded from the census, and participation in voting again.
Gibbs, Nancy, “Unfinished Business,” Time, 4/28/03
International Crisis Group, “Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line,” 7/8/09
Nordland, Rod, “Now It’s A Census That Could Rip Iraq Apart,” New York Times, 7/26/09
Williams, Timothy, “Turkmens in Contested Oil-Rich Province Vow to Boycott Iraq’s National Census,” New York Times, 7/24/09