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Iraqis vote in early Kurdish elections
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09:19, July 24, 2009

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Iraqis headed Thursday for the early voting of the Kurdish regional parliamentary and presidential elections ahead of Saturday's regional elections that will determine the leadership of Iraq's Kurdish region.

Some 325 polling stations in the provinces of Arbil, Sulaimaniyah and Duhuk have opened their doors at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) for security members, prisoners, patients in the hospitals and health cadre to vote in the early stage of the elections.

Faraj al-Haidari, head of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), told reporters during his tour on polling stations in the region that "the statistics of the commission said that some 130,000 voters have participated in the special elections on Thursday."

"The turnout was good and we have not registered any serious violation in today's special elections," Haidari said.

About 2.5 million eligible voters in the three provinces and some other Kurds outside the region will elect their 111-seat parliament and next president on Saturday.

Around 24 blocs are running in the legislative elections, while five candidates are running for the presidency of the region.

The two main Kurdish parties of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, headed by regional government president Masoud Barzani, are running the elections in a coalition.

Observers expect that the coalition will face a challenge from new opposition alliances.

Source: Xinhua

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