The Basra Governorate urged southern Iraqi governorates to form a single, southern province in case Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose coalition controls most of the local governments in southern Iraq, is given a vote of no confidence.
Sabah Albazzouni, the head of the Basra Provincial Council, told Al-Hayat newspaper that “the governorate wants to create a southern province due to the severe political crisis that the country has been facing since the end of last year, which may cause the government to withdraw its confidence in al-Maliki at a time when other political parties are trying to control the country’s fate.”
“We were already uncertain and anxious about the next prime minister, regardless of his political affiliations. This is why we are applying constitutional procedures to establish a general southern province, or a specific Basra province,” he added.
He mentioned that “any candidate who wishes to replace the current prime minister can do so once that candidate makes concessions to the parliamentary blocs in charge of nominating him. Such concessions include annexing Kirkuk to the Kurdistan province, or stopping the arrest warrants against terrorists who belong to certain parliamentary blocs.”
He said: “We will urge governors and heads of governorate councils to establish a Southern Province. If they do not respond, we will announce a Basra province. Besides, this is an old request on the part of the federal government that has been postponed repeatedly because of the political situation.” He also noted that “this issue will be one of the main items of a meeting we are holding on Thursday.”
“The Governorate Council did not reject our request outright, but waited a few months to implement it because the political situation could not tolerate any more problems,” said Albazzouni.
Of the Basra Provincial Council’s 35 members, 22 signed a petition in 2010 to form a Basra Province. They asked the Council of Ministers to prepare a referendum in the governorate per constitutional law, but the prime minister has not yet replied to their request.
Basra Provincial Council member Walid Hamid told Al-Hayat that “The central government has not yet replied to our request to convert this governorate into a province. This runs contrary to our Constitution, but the current political crisis has changed a lot of positions on the matter.” He added, “We will send confirmation request letters in order to speed up the process if our meeting with other local governments is not fruitful.”
Former MP Wael Abdul Latif was the first to set off the transformation of Basra into a province in 2008, when he submitted a petition for forming a province to the Electoral Commission. Nearly 2 percent of voters signed the petition, but he did not get the 10 percent approval that is needed to start a general referendum in the governorate.
Meanwhile, in the Maysan governorate, the Sadrist “Free Bloc”movement said yesterday that forming a province will deliberately cause bigger and more complex problems for the country, warning against “public outrage”.
Free Bloc representative Maytham Fartusi stated that “the recent movement for establishing provinces, especially in the south, is a political move to divert attention from the main problem and to lead the country into other bigger and more complex problems.” He warned against “public and widespread outrage, which will reach everyone who seeks to divide the country.”
He added: “There are those who take advantage of the feelings of citizens. They promise them security, safety, reconstruction, and cultural understanding if we create provinces, as if they are going to establish another Plato's Republic.” Fartusi considered all of this to be pure treachery.
Fartusi also confirmed that “the real and realistic solution is to rally around a democratic, strong, national and fair central government; to strengthen it, correct its mistakes and promote its positive qualities.” He also advised “working on service projects and avoiding the manipulation of the peoples’ emotions, especially in light of the upcoming elections.”