Iraqi Kurds Vote in the Polls, Results Not Released Yet
Iraqi Kurds voted in the semiautonomous Kurdistan region today and hundreds lined up for hours before polling places opened to cast their ballot for the local presidential and parliamentary elections. They are choosing a new parliament and a president.
Security was extensive at the polling stations, and many people wore traditional Kurdish costumes to cast their vote. However, there is little doubt that the current government will maintain its leadership on the 4.5 million people according to the New York Times, as many Kurds give credit to the regional govenment for the current security of the region, especially in comparison to the rest of the country.
“I want to preserve the progress that we have achieved,” declared Saada Majid, 42, reflecting the view of many residents as she was being assisted in her wheelchair into a polling station in the working-class neighborhood of Azadi.
The KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan), former rivals, control the region and economic resources and the armed forces. They have long had tense relations with the government in Baghdad over boundaries and energy revenues.
A challenge was mounted by Noshirwan Mustafa, leading a coalition called Gorran, or Change, and although it is thought that they won't win, it will at least bring an air of competition to the voting. The challenge has brought more young and poor voters out however, who really want to see change.
Gorran, headed by Nawshirwan Mustafa, a former P.U.K. insider, hopes to capitalize on disenchantment with the status quo, and a feeling that the two-party monopoly has become autocratic, nepotistic and corrupt.
“They have been in power for 18 years and they have done nothing for the people,” said Faiq Salih, 37, a day laborer from Azadi who said he was voting for Gorran.
Many are frightened to announce their support for Gorran, for fear of losing their jobs.
Jala Talabani, the current Iraqi President has been campaigning all over the country for his own re-election and the re-election of Masood Barzani, the current Kurdistan President.
“We have shortcomings and we hear them loud and clear,” said Qubad Talabani, the region’s Washington representative and son of the P.U.K. chairman and Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani. “We know that we cannot have business as usual.”
Mr. Talabani said that the next government would tackle many things, corruption among others, and provide better services to its citizens.
Results could emerge as early as Sunday in the region.
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