The 2005 Iraq constitution defines Iraq as a federal country. Basra submitted a petition to the electoral commission to hold a referendum, the result of which would be it becoming a semi-autonomous region.
It wants autonomy because many of its residents consider themselves marginalised by successive Iraqi governments both before and since the 2003 American liberation.
The guidelines under which the constitution allows for a region to declare autonomy is, “a new region can be proposed by one third or more of the council members in each affected governorate plus 500 voters or by one tenth or more voters in each affected governorate. A referendum must then be held within three months, which requires a simple majority in favour to pass".
However Prime Minister Malaki opposed this referendum, believing that forming new regions in Iraq would trigger a civil war. Basra in particular is riddled with rivalries between the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council(SIIC), the Fadhila party and the Sadrists. Another reason for Malaki's oppostion is that he favours a strong central state.