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.
"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
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."
"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. "