Iraq’s parliament has voted to remove the governor of Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk from office, according to legislators present at the vote.
Thursday’s decision to remove Najmaddin Kareem followed parliamentarians’ rejection of Kurdish plans to hold an independence referendum on Tuesday.
Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, requested the removal of Kareem as leader of the oil-rich province, said Hussein al-Maliki, member of parliament.
All Kurdish legislators boycotted Thursday’s session, while Arab parliamentarians voted in favour of Kareem’s deposition, he said.
A breakdown for the vote was not immediately available.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Erbil, said the vote was “very significant”, and was “another move to try and put pressure on the Kurds”.
“The governor of Kirkuk has been a very vocal supporter of Kurdish independence and this was a direct call from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi saying that this man should be removed from office,” he said.
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A number of political parties have protested against the vote, claiming the signatures required to remove Kareem from office are not valid, he said.
“[They say] Kareem will remain in office despite what the Iraqis think and that this vote [on independence] will go ahead.”
Kirkuk’s provincial council voted last month to take part in the referendum on independence, which is scheduled to be held on September 25.
Ownership of Kirkuk has been long been disputed between Iraq and the Kurdish authorities.
Though not part of the recognised Kurdistan region in Iraq, the province has a large Kurdish population and is under Kurdish-military control.
Kurds have pushed for their own state since the conclusion of World War I when Kurdish-populated areas were split between modern-day Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria as boundaries across the Middle East were redrawn.
The Kurdish parliament is expected to meet tomorrow to discuss the planned ballot on independence.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies