On October 3, 2010 it was announced that Iraq’s long-awaited census would be delayed for a third time. The national poll was scheduled for October 24, but the cabinet decided that it would now occur on December 5. The main reason was the arguments over the disputed territories. In Ninewa for example, Iraq’s second largest province, the governor said that he would not conduct the census as long as Kurdish peshmerga were present there. As a result, the governorate has refused to train census workers. According to the Environment Minister who was at the cabinet meeting that made the decision, there were concerns about Kirkuk as well. The Kurds are also demanding that Yazidis, Shabaks and Fayli Kurds all be labeled as Kurds rather than be given their own classifications. That would greatly increase the Kurdish population in northern Iraq, and the disputed areas, and incur the wrath of Arabs and Turkmen there who oppose the Kurds’ aspirations to annex those regions.
The last census happened in 1997, but it did not include the three Kurdish provinces, which were not under control of Saddam Hussein at the time. 1987 was the last time a full census occurred. This year’s poll was actually supposed to happen in 2007, but was delayed because of security concerns. Then in 2009 Baghdad tried to make it happen again, but the future of the disputed territories got in the way then as now.
The census is important for the country for a number of reasons. Article 140 of the constitution calls for a census in the disputed areas as a first step to determine what will happen to them. Populations also determine how much money each province gets in the budget. With the security situation greatly improved in Iraq, it seemed like the right time to hold the national poll, but politics as ever has gotten in the way. Iraq’s politicians are not willing to compromise over the disputed territories, and that’s now the main barrier to the census being completed. Whether they will be any more ready in December than now is highly unlikely, especially if a new government has still not been formed. That could lead to a fourth delay.
Agence France Presse, “Iraq postpones nationwide census: minister,” 10/3/10
Baziyan, Hawar, “Kurdish committee worried about halting census training,” AK News, 10/3/10
Kami, Aseel, “Iraq delays first census since 1987 over land row,” Reuters, 10/3/10