Iraq's Kurds vote amid rows, regional tensions
By Prashant Rao, AFPARBIL, Iraq -- Iraq's Kurds voted Saturday in their first election in four years as their autonomous region grapples with disputes with Baghdad while fellow Kurds fight bloody battles in neighboring Syria.
September 22, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The election for the region's parliament comes as turmoil roiling the Middle East has raised renewed questions about the political future of the Kurdish nation as a whole.
The Kurds are spread across a number of neighboring states, where they have long faced hostile governments but have found increasing space to pursue their aspirations to run their own affairs.
About 2.8 million Kurds are eligible to vote across the three-province region of northern Iraq, and queues had already formed when polls opened.
Some voters wore the traditional garb that is often reserved for special occasions, while many women wore full-length black abaya robes.
Observers and diplomats who visited multiple polling centers across the regional capital Arbil told AFP that they had seen no irregularities and that the election appeared to be proceeding well.
The campaign centered on calls for more to be done to fight corruption and improve the delivery of basic services, as well as on how the energy-rich region's oil revenues should be spent.
“The main problem ... is economic,” said Mohammed Saleh.
“The cost of living now is high, and the people need more money. The new parliament needs to organize a program for solving this.”
The 54-year-old architect added: “For 20 years, our government has been trying to make services good for the cities, towns and even for the villages.