In a July 19 statement, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani said that holding a referendum is a natural right of the people of Kurdistan that they will not back down from. According to the spokesperson for the Independent High Electoral and Referendum Commission (IHERC) in Kurdistan, around 6 million people in the Kurdistan Region and the disputed territories such as the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Sinjar, Makhmour and Khanaqin have the right to vote in the referendum. Forty-eight percent of the Kurdistan Region’s land is still disputed between Baghdad and Erbil and some 2.7 million people live in the disputed territories.
According to Article 140 of the constitution, the territorial disputes between Baghdad and Erbil was set to be settled by the end of 2007, but the Iraqi government never implemented this article. For Barzani, the nonimplementation of the Iraqi Constitution is one of the main reasons he wants to hold a referendum Sept. 25 in the Kurdistan Region and the contested areas. However, there are many challenges that may eventually keep the referendum from happening on the scheduled date, especially in the disputed territories.