Kirkuk, Iraq -- Ahead of a controversial referendum on independence in northern Iraq, a leading Turkmen politician is criticizing moves related to the vote, including the establishment of an election office in the disputed city of Kirkuk.
The Supreme Board of Elections of the northern Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), which is holding the referendum, founding an office in Kirkuk is illegal, said Hasan Turan, vice president of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) and member of Iraq's national parliament.
"The KRG-linked Supreme Board of Elections establishing an office in Kirkuk is yet another constitutional violation," Turan said Anadolu Agency.
"The board can only operate in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Duhok, which are affiliated with the Kurdish Regional Government," Turan continued.
Turan added that legal action would be taken against civil servants if they vote in the referendum, which is set to be held on Sept. 25.
Warning that the vote would jeopardize Iraq's unity and solidarity, Turan said, "The [Kirkuk Provincial] Council connected to [Iraq's] central administration should issue a decision to cancel the decision to take part in the referendum."
On Sept. 25, KRG residents are set to take part in the controversial referendum on whether to declare formal independence from the Iraqi state.
On Aug. 29, Kirkuk's Provincial Council decided to take part in the referendum despite the fact that the session was boycotted by its Turkmen and Arab members, who later denounced the vote as unconstitutional.
Turkmen and Arab members of the council also boycotted the sessions in April where the controversial decision was made to fly the KRG flag alongside the Iraqi flag.
Oil-rich Kirkuk is one of the disputed zones between the Kurdish Regional Government and Iraqi central government. The city was seized by Kurdish Peshmerga forces in 2014 after a Daesh terrorist group offensive.
During and after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kurdish Peshmerga forces seized Kirkuk, prompting an influx of Kurds into the ethnically diverse city; Kirkuk's population has historically been mainly made up of Arabs, Turkmens, and Kurds.
Turkey has repeatedly denounced the upcoming KRG referendum, calling it a grave mistake that would endanger regional peace and security.
Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara.