The provincial council of Iraq’s Sunni Arab majority Salaheddin province voted on Thursday for it to become an administratively and economically autonomous region similar to Kurdistan, a statement said.
However, for the decision to take effect, it must still be approved in a referendum by residents of the province.
“We announce that the majority of the provincial council voted to approve the declaration of Salaheddin as an administrative and economic region,” the council's secretary general, Niyazi Oglu, said in a statement.
But Ahmed Abdullah, the province’s governor, said the main reason for the vote was a campaign of arrests carried out by Iraqi security forces in the province without consultation, raising the possibility that the council’s decision was a vote of protest rather than a serious bid for autonomy.
“The main reason behind this move is the arrests operation undertaken by the central government against the sons of the province, which was without coordination or consultation with us,” Abdullah said.
According to Tikrit police, Iraqi security forces arrested 30 alleged members of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath party on Sunday evening, as part of a multi-province sweep against suspected members.
Abdullah also accused the central government of depriving the province of financial resources, saying that was another reason for the decision.
According to Article 119 of the Iraqi constitution, "one or more governorates shall have the right to organize into a region based on a request to be voted on in a referendum.”
The Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, which is made up of Arbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah provinces, is currently the country's only autonomous region.