Iraqi Kurds elect first parliament since secession fiasco
Voters in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq have headed to polling stations to elect the first parliament since a disastrous separation referendum last year.
Voting began on Sunday, with almost 3.1 million people eligible to partake across three provinces that make up the region.
As many as 673 candidates from 29 political movements are vying for seats in the 111-member chamber.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani who was Kurdistan’s president from 2005 until 2017 and its traditional rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), are the main contestants.
The KDP currently holds 38 seats, while the PUK has 18 at the local legislature.
The main opposition Goran (Change) party has 24 seats but observers say it is not expected to fare any better in the polls after performing badly during Iraq’s general elections in May.
The region suffered heavily after the secession vote last September, which led to a crisis in ties with the federal government in Baghdad.
After the referendum, Baghdad banned flights to the region and imposed economic penalties. It also retook control of the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which had been overrun by Kurdish militants.
Since 2014, Iraqi Kurdistan has borrowed more than $4 billion to stay afloat, according to some experts. Before the failed referendum, it had built up a debt of around $12 billion.