Arbil (Iraq): Iraq`s autonomous Kurdish
region goes to the polls on Saturday to elect a President and
a Parliament amid a simmering land dispute with Baghdad and
rising tensions over oil exports that could lead to armed
Incumbent president Massud Barzani is widely expected to
be returned to office while his Kurdistan Democratic Party
(KDP) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani`s Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK) are likely to sweep the legislative poll, in
which more than 2.5 million Kurds are eligible to vote.
The two parties, which have dominated the region`s
politics for decades, have presented a joint list, mostly of
new candidates in a bid to present an image of renewal, but
face a number of challengers seeking to break their
More than 100,000 Kurdish members of Iraq`s armed forces
were voting today, along with police, prisoners and the sick,
ahead of election day.
"I`m very happy to be exercising my democratic right,"
said soldier Hadi Sultan, 33, as he cast his ballot at a
polling station in the capital, Baghdad.
Saturday`s main vote is being held six months after the
rest of Iraq held provincial elections and as the US military
is planning its pullout from the country in 2011.