Basra renews autonomy campaign

Local leaders are reviving a populist initiative to transform Iraq's oil capital into its own federal region.
Protesters in Basra burned government and party buildings on Sept. 6, 2018, as demonstrations against poor government services turned violent. (ALI AL-AQILY/Iraq Oil Report)

BASRA - The Basra Provincial Council has voted to hold a referendum on creating a new federal region, as local politicians reopen an old populist playbook in response to enduring anger over dysfunctional governance.

If past efforts to turn Basra into a region are any indication, the road to a referendum is strewn with obstacles - chiefly, a lack of support from the federal government to hold a vote, the steep challenge of convincing over half the population to vote "yes," and legal ambiguity around what formal powers Basra would stand to gain.

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