By Shwan Mohammed (AFP) – 12 hours ago
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — A new opposition party in Iraqi Kurdistan said on Sunday that it had made a major breakthrough towards ending the region's long dominance by the two main former rebel factions.
The Goran (Change) list said it won most votes in the autonomous region's second city of Sulaimaniyah in weekend elections, raising the prospect of a strong opposition in parliament for the first time.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of regional president Massud Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani have dominated Iraqi Kurdish politics for half a century, first as rebels and then following the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war, as the region's effective rulers.
Goran said in a statement on its website that it had won the most votes in the parliamentary election in Sulaimaniyah, long a PUK stronghold, after a preliminary count, a claim confirmed by a senior KDP source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We have won the city and the province of Sulaimaniyah," the Goran statement said.
Preliminary results from the simultaneous presidential election suggested that the joint KDP-PUK candidate Barzani was also trailing in the province to London-based university professor Kamal Miraudly, who had been considered a rank outsider.
But the incumbent regional president was ahead in Kurdistan's other two provinces of Arbil and Dohuk, both traditional strongholds of his KDP.
The KDP source said that across the region, the joint KDP-PUK "Kurdistania" list won 59 percent of the vote, equating to around 55 seats in the region's 111-seat parliament.
The joint list held 78 seats in the outgoing parliament elected in 2005.
A senior Goran official told AFP that the party would win 28 seats -- 19 in Sulaimaniyah and nine in Arbil -- making it the first credible opposition to KDP-PUK dominance that the region has seen.
Another leftist-Islamist list could win as many as 17 seats.
Final results are not expected for several days. After the preliminary count in the regional capital Arbil, ballots are to be sent to Baghdad for an official tally.
Goran is led by Nusherwan Mustafa, a wealthy entrepreneur and former deputy leader of the PUK.
"The Kurdistania list has won enough seats to form a strong government, and Goran has a sufficient number of seats to be a strong opposition," said Hoger Shatu, the director of a non-governmental group monitoring the election.
Nearly 80 percent of the region's voters turned out in what election officials trumpeted as a transparent poll.
No opinion polls were carried out in the run-up to Saturday's election, which had made the outcome difficult to predict.
Kurds exhibited increasing concern over corruption through the course of the campaign, while disputes with Baghdad over territory and oil also loomed over the election.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki described the election as "another step in building a democratic Iraq" and and "an opportunity to resolve all problems".
Barzani told reporters on Saturday: "We hope that these elections will be a first step to solving issues with Baghdad."
But he also insisted: "I will work to get back the disputed areas."
He was referring to longstanding Kurdish demands to incorporate the oil province of Kirkuk and historically Kurdish-majority parts of three other provinces into their autonomous region.
Those claims are strongly opposed by Arab and other non-Kurdish populations of the disputed areas and have led to mounting friction with Baghdad.
Here's the BBC's take.
Voting is under way for a new president and parliament in the autonomous
Iraqi region of Kurdistan, with the governing coalition facing a vigorous
A BBC correspondent says turnout is expected to be high, with queues of
people outside polling stations before they had opened.
Incumbent President Masood Barzani and the ruling parliamentary coalition
are both expected to win re-election.
Read it here.
"The use of 'closed lists' in this election has also been condemned by
observers and voters alike.
In 'closed lists', voters can only vote for political parties as a
whole and have no say on which party candidate is elected.
By concealing the identities of those who make up the new reform
parties, critics claim it is a plot to guide voters toward supporting the
well-known parties rather than popular individuals.
Members of the establishment have justified this method, claiming that
the people do not have the knowledge and experience to identify individuals who
are well suited to take part in decision-making.
The challenge for the people of Kurdistan in these elections is to find
the right balance of candidates that will empower parties to best serve Iraqi
update: Second article here.
But Dr Fereydun Rafiq Hilmi, a member of the first Kurdish cabinet in 1992,
suggested that the election is unlikely to undermine the ruling alliance
between the two parties.
"I don't think there is going to be any challenge to the PUK and KDP,
because these guys are there to stay. They have no intention of letting anyone
else rule," he told Al Jazeera.
Hilmi said the parties have "a long list of malpractice as far as
elections are concerned", citing the first Kurdish elections in 1992 in which he
says the results were "discarded".
"They decided to have a 50-50 system and they established a government,
of which I was a member. It was quite ineffective," he said.
"The people are fed up with the old way of doing things. They have been
fed up for the past 18 to 19 years."
If you forced me to guess I'd say 297 and I'd wonder why you cared enough to force a number out of me.
Seriously, you should have something else to worry about.
One might ask why I spend so much time playing games whilst at work. The answer is fairly simple: it's better than sitting at my desk twiddling my thumbs between phone calls.
Angie often asks why I don't do something more productive. I explain that I can't focus on any one thing too deeply as I'm drawn away to the phone at least once every 5 minutes or so on average.
Some of the calls are complex, some are simple, but all require my attention to be drawn from something else. It means I spend a lot of time on meaningless tasks - if tasks isn't too strong a word for Bejeweled.
But today I may have sunk to a new low - one I'm less than comfortable with. I started playing FarmTown. Now I'm waiting for my virtual grapes and potatoes to ripen so I can harvest them and buy a virtual fence or hay bale or pile of wood.
On Saturday morning, we went to the parade in Upper Arlington. It was about two or three blocks from our house. I don't know that I've ever lived closer to a parade route.
Nila had a great time. She danced with the cheerleaders and clapped with the bands. She did not enjoy the loud trucks or the fire engines. Angie and I had to cover her ears during those moments so that she wouldn't try to shove the small American flags she'd been given into her ears.
We watched for about an hour before we abandoned the affair. Not that the parade wasn't fun; it was just so very long.
In addition to the excitement of the parade, Angie found that she was allergic to her new medication. A rash had developed on the backs of her arms. She called her doctor and he told her to take some benadryl and to stop the meds.
She did that, but on Sunday the rash was worse. And it had spread to her neck, down her arms, her ears, her face. All over really.
She called the doctor again. This time he sent her to the ER.
At the ER, they gave her a steroid shot in the butt and a prescription for Atarax.
The combo helped the rash, but by Tuesday, her throat had swelled and was painful. The ER doc told her to come back if these symptoms presented. She called her doctor, but he did not respond.
So, last night, at about 9:30 pm, we headed back to the ER.
After three long hours, the doctor told her she was fine. he advised her to cut her dosage of the Atarax in half and to go from there.
That seems to be doing the trick.
In other news, Angie's mom is in town for the next couple of weeks.
It was nice. As it turns out, there isn't that much to miss out on over a long weekend. I actually read a book (which I will discuss later).
The Green Briefs, however, did not take the same break I did. Take a moment to catch up.
This article is from 2008, but still relevant.
"Iraq has changed, but Iraqi Kurdistan has not. After Saddam's fall, many
Iraqi Kurds expected that their region would liberalize and democratize. Rather
than reform, however, regional politics have ossified. Barzani retains
dictatorial control over the Duhok and Erbil governorates, and Talabani likewise
dominates Sulaymaniyah. While it is inaccurate to describe the Kurdish
leadership—at least the PUK half—as tribal, both parties rely on family members
for control. Barzani appointed his nephew prime minister and assigned his
thirty-five-year-old son to run the local intelligence service. Other relatives
control the regional telephone company, newspapers, and media.
Talabani's wife, Hero Khan, likewise, runs the local satellite station.
One son manages the PUK's intelligence operation, while the other represents the
KRG in Washington. When it came time to divvy up ministerial portfolios in
Baghdad, both Kurdish leaders turned to their families: Barzani gave his uncle
the Foreign Ministry portfolio, while Talabani gave one brother-in-law the
Ministry of Water Resources and his wife's brother-in-law the ambassadorship to
China. To Talabani's credit, both men are professionally qualified."
"Tehran's notorious Evin prison is reportedly packed to capacity now and security
forces are housing the detained in football stadiums. So many people are put in
Tehran’s prisons that prisoners only have standing space. Reports say guards are
preventing prisoners from sleeping by keeping them standing all night. Amnesty
International today warned that the opposition leaders arrested in Iran were at
risk of being tortured. "