by Mohammed Amin Abdulqadir
(IPS) -- While most of Iraq waits as the counting of votes begins, much of the Kurdish north is celebrating election victory already.
Election in several areas Thursday turned out to be no more than an endorsement of the Kurdish Alliance List (KAL) comprising the two major Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
The polling booths were opened to voters at 7AM and were closed at 5PM. In other parts of the country voting was extended by one hour.
According to figures released by the electoral commission, 2,266,504 eligible voters were registered in the three northern provinces under Kurdish control.
Polling in Kurdish areas was heavy. Farhad Mohammed, 50, coordinator of the Ishtar polling station near Ainkawa district north of Arbil told IPS that 80 percent of the 2,488 registered voters had cast their votes by 2PM.
Early results showed a KAL slide. At a polling station in Binesilawa district east of Arbil, 2,918 votes went to the KAL out of 2,983 cast. The Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) list, thought to be the main rival list of KAL, got 19 votes, and the Kurdistan Islamic Movement four. There were 42 invalid votes.
Other than these the other significant lists contending for seats in Kurdistan were the Patriotic Iraqi List of former prime minister Ayad Allawi, and the Rafidain list comprising several Christian parties. Nationwide, more than 300 slates contested for 275 seats in the Iraqi parliament.
After casting his vote at a school in Arbil, Kurdistan regional government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said the KAL could win 50 to 55 seats. But it is not clear who the KAL will align with in parliament. Kurdish leaders have already expressed displeasure at their coalition with Shia religious parties in the interim government before the election.
The majority of voters in Kurdish areas seem to have been motivated by nationalist sentiments, showing the deep rift between the country's various ethnic and religious groups. "I came here to vote for Kurdistan and its success," said Mohammed Iskandar, a company employee in Arbil. "If Kurds don't vote today we will not be powerful in Baghdad." Many people seemed to hope that the election will bring some improvement in the situation in Iraq. "Hopefully the situation all over Iraq and Kurdistan will get better," said Salahaddin Qadir, 53, a former football coach. "We participated seriously in the voting so that Iraq's problems will be resolved." Security was tight, with large police and security forces spread around the polling stations and in different parts of Arbil. Vehicles were banned and several roads were blocked. Voters were searched before they were allowed near the ballot boxes. No security incidents were reported.
But at several polling stations observers complained of irregularities.
"There have been several irregularities in this station, I saw multiple voting and some people in military uniform came and voted without having their names registered in the electoral tallies," said a representative of a local watchdog group at a polling station in Ainkawa. He did not want to be identified.
Similar claims were made by KIU and Rafidain representatives, but their complaints could not immediately be verified.
Election officials said they have formed a committee to investigate complaints. "But we have not received any official complaints yet," Abdul-Masih Salman Yalda, acting head of the Arbil office of the electoral commission told IPS.
The votes had hardly been cast when celebrations began. Youths danced and sang on the streets in anticipation of a KAL win.
"Election today is like a feast for U.S. and we are here to celebrate this happy occasion," said KAL worker Shakir Omar, dancing with his friends in traditional Kurdish costume. (
December 17, 2005 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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