Iraqi Kurds have been voting in regional presidential and parliamentary elections to a backdrop of tension between Kurds and the national government in Baghdad. 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 Bar-zani, the current regional president who looks likely to be re-elected.
Tensions have been high over Kurdish claims to disputed areas like oil-rich Kirkuk. Mr Barzani said the standoff can be resolved. He said: “if any disputes arise between the Kurdistan region and Baghdad we can solve it through the constitution.” Ballots will be flown from Kurdistan to Baghdad and an official result is expected in two or three days. The Kurds are electing a president directly this time, unlike in 2005 polls twhen they elected only a parliament. About two and a half million Kurds are eligible to vote in the elections six months after the rest of the country. The two main parties have dominated the region’s politics for decades and have been in power since 1991 when Kurdistan became semi-autonomous. A number of independent opposition candidates are hoping to pick up votes from people disenchanted with the ruling political elite.