Iraqi Turkman Group Threatens To Boycott Iraqi Elections Over Kurdish 'Games'
"We will be forced to reconsider our decision to participate in the elections... if the election structure and arrangements are continously tinkered with," a statement issued by the Ankara office of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC) said.
The ITC is one of the main groups representing the Iraqi Turkmen, an ethnic community of Turkish descent, which enjoys Ankara's support.
The statement accused the two main Kurdish groups in northern Iraq -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan -- of having "stepped up efforts to upset Kirkuk's demographic structure after failing to postpone the elections."
It claimed that thousands of Kurds were being improperly registered as voters and objected to an extention of the registration period in the city.
"We find it strange and unacceptable for the Independent Iraqi Election Commission to bow down to the wishes of the two spoiled Kurdish parties and allow itself to be manipulated in the games that are being played in Kirkuk," the statement said.
Some Iraqi Kurds want Kirkuk to be incorporated in an enlarged, autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, while many others want the city to become the capital of an independent Kurdish state.
Turkey is also vehemently opposed to Kurdish control of the city, which also has a large population of Turkmens, and has repeatedly warned against any moves to change its demography.
Ankara worries that Kurdish control of local oil riches will strengthen possible Kurdish attempts to break away from Baghdad, a nightmare scenario for Iraq's neighbors.
Iraqi Kurds, however, say Kirkuk was overwhelmingly Kurdish in the 1950s before Baghdad started a campaign of "Arabization" during which thousands of Arabs were encouraged to settle in the city.
They are now trying to chase the Arabs out and thousands of Kurds have resettled in the region following the US-led occupation of Iraq.