Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi commented on proposals to transform Basra governorate into a federal region, saying that “the issue of the Basra province is up to the governorate and its people.”
Basra provincial council decided earlier in April in an extraordinary session to activate its previous decision concerning transforming the province into a federal region.
Twenty members of the council officially confirmed the activation of the decision to transform Basra into a federal region in order to protect the city from centralization, which has become a burden to the work of the local government.
It’s not the first time that Basrans have requested federalism. In 2008, provincial leaders lobbied then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to establish administrative federalism for Basra, but the request was denied, Arab Weekly reported.
Today, local officials in Basra hope Abd al-Mahdi will be more sympathetic to their cause. The officials say if they are allocated a large-enough portion of the national budget, they would do a better job than the central government in addressing the province’s needs.
‘Not a solution’
Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said that turning Basra into a federal region is “not the solution.”
Sadr posted on Twitter, saying that turning Basra into a region would weaken it and makes it easier for its resources to get stolen by officials and outsiders.
He also called upon Iraqis to maintain the unity of their country, even if the decision was the result of the will of Basra’s oppressed residents.
Head of the Basra provincial council, Sabah Al-Bazoni, told reporters that as many as 20 council members voted in favor of turning Basrainto an autonomous region, more than the 12 votes needed.
Bazoni explained that the council has formed a committee to follow up on the results and to support efforts that are consistent with the region’s vision.
“All this aims to take Basra’s administrative and financial benefits from the federal government, in accordance with the Constitution,” he added.
Communist Party rejects
The Iraqi Communist Party on Tuesday expressed objection to the proposal, saying that opponents of making Basra part of the federal system fear that some might later call for independence, as was the case in the Kurdistan region.
The Party Secretary Raed Fahmi said in a meeting that such step is unsuitable for the current stage, considering it a project "to create political chaos with the aim of dividing the country in the future."
Article 119 of the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that every province has the right to become a federal region either alone or together with other provinces, after following required procedures. A province can request being designated a federal entity after the approval of one-third of members of the governorate council and one-tenth of the area’s electorate.