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Iraq Kurds keep parties in power, opposition gains - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Robert Gates U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, right, shakes hands with Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani in Irbil, Iraq, 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Baghdad, July 29, 2009 (AP)

Robert Gates U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, right, shakes hands with Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani in Irbil, Iraq, 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Baghdad, July 29, 2009 (AP)

ARBIL, Iraq, (Reuters) – Ruling parties in Iraqi Kurdistan will retain control of the Kurdish parliament after weekend polls, preliminary results showed on Wednesday.

An opposition movement, campaigning against corruption and for political reforms, took a surprise 23.8 percent, electoral officials said in the Kurdish capital Arbil.

The election come against the backdrop of mounting tensions between Kurdish officials and the Baghdad government, locked in a feud over oil and disputed territory that may pose the next major threat to Iraq just as sectarian violence ebbs.

The polls results are unlikely to change the Kurds’ quest for control of the oil-producing region of Kirkuk, an uneasy ethnic mix of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen which Kurds consider their ancestral homeland and want to make part of their semi-autonomous northern Kurdish encalve.

Masoud Barzani was reelected with 69.6 percent of the presidential vote while the two-party ruling alliance, including Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), received 57 percent of the parliamentary vote.

The polls, the first time voters in the largely autonomous northern region elected a president directly, went off on Saturday without major disruptions. After polls closed, electoral officials said turnout was close to 80 percent. But opposition parties, for the first time making a real challenge to the region’s two-party hegemony, complained of voting fraud and aggression from KDP-PUK supporters. They said even before preliminary figures were announced they would not accept the results.

The electoral commission has said it is looking into complaints but did not expect them to affect the outcome.

A file picture dated November 12, 2008 shows the president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, during a press conference at Arbil airport, 350 kms north of Baghdad (AFP)

A file picture dated November 12, 2008 shows the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, during a press conference at Arbil airport, 350 kms north of Baghdad (AFP)

An electoral worker checks the ballots during counting following the July 25 parliamentary and presidential elections in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah, 330 kms from Baghdad on July 27, 2009 (AFP)

An electoral worker checks the ballots during counting following the July 25 parliamentary and presidential elections in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah, 330 kms from Baghdad on July 27, 2009 (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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