ARBIL, Iraq (AFP) – Iraqi authorities are set on Monday to release preliminary results from weekend elections in the autonomous Kurdish region after a new opposition party claimed a major breakthrough.
The Goran (Change) list said it had won more than a quarter of seats in the regional Kurdish parliament in Saturday’s legislative election, raising the prospect of a strong opposition for the first time.
The vote was held at a key time in Iraq’s transition as regional leaders are locked in a bitter dispute with Baghdad over land and oil, while local voters also voiced their increasing concerned about corruption.
Incumbent regional president Massud Barzani won 70 percent of the vote in a simultaneous presidential poll pitting him against four other candidates, presidential cabinet chief Fuad Hussein said on Sunday.
A joint list uniting Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani won 60 percent of ballots cast in the parliamentary vote, Hussein said.
The two parties have dominated Iraqi Kurdish politics for half a century, first as rebels and then as the region’s effective rulers in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war over Saddam Hussein’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait.
The results would give the KDP-PUK list around 55 seats in the 111-seat parliament, down from 78 seats in the outgoing assembly elected in 2005.
A senior Goran official told AFP that his party would win 28 seats, making it the first credible opposition to the longstanding KDP-PUK dominance in the rugged mountainous north of Iraq.
Nearly 80 percent of the region’s 2.5 million voters turned out on Saturday for what election officials trumpeted as a transparent poll. Final results are not due for several days, as ballots must be transported to Baghdad for an official count.