In Kurdish-run Northern Iraq a larger than expected voter turnout meant polling stations were kept open an hour later than scheduled in regional presidential and parliamentary elections.
Although some irregularities were reported, the ballots are being counted and the official result will be announced from Baghdad in two or three days. It is the first time the people of the relatively peaceful northern enclave will have directly elected their president. The Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani heads the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party. He is expected to sweep the board on a joint ticket along with Massoud Barzani, the current regional president who looks likely to be re-elected. One of the issues in the campaign has been relations with Iraq’s central government in Baghdad and in particular the future of the oil-rich area of Kirkuk which is seen by Kurds as their ancestral homeland. Kurds are also concerned over alleged corruption among the current ruling two party alliance and it is over this issue that a number of independent opposition candidates hope to pick up votes. About two and a half million Kurds were eligible to cast a ballet in the elections six months after the rest of the country.