UPDATE 2 – Iraqi Kurds vote in parliamentary polls

*UPDATES WITH LOW TURNOUT

By Aref Yusuf and Ali Mohamed

ERBIL, Iraq (AA) – Voters in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region began to cast their ballots in the region’s parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Around 3.3 million voters are eligible to cast ballot in the vote to elect from 673 candidates running for 111 seats in parliament.

Voting began at 08.00 a.m. local time (05:00 GMT) and ends at 18.00 p.m. (15:00 GMT).

Poor turnout was reported in the Kurdish region by mid-day.

“The turnout reached 15 percent until 9:00 GMT,” a source with the Iraqi Independent Electoral Committee in the Kurdish region told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity as he was unauthorized to speak to media.

Some 29 parties and coalitions are vying in the vote, the first since the defeat of the Daesh terrorist group by Iraqi forces and a U.S.-led coalition last year.

The High Election Commission in the Kurdish region has established some 5,933 voting stations in the cities of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Dohuk and Halabja for the polls.

Leading parties vying for seats in the parliamentary polls include Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Gorran Movement, Kurdistan Islamic Party (Yekgirtu), Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), Kurdistan Islamic Movement (Bizutnava) and the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF).

The parliamentary polls are held every four years in the Kurdish region.

Sunday’s vote had been scheduled to be held in 2017, but it was postponed for a year as a result of political and economic crises in the region.

For his part, Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and KDP deputy leader, denied tension between his party and PUK.

“The post of the president of the [Iraqi] republic is bound to the Kurds and we suggested to the PUK and the rest of [political] blocs to select one candidate,” Barzani told reporters after casting his ballot.

He voiced hope that all Kurdish parties would reach a common understanding regarding the choosing of a new nominee.

A quota was set up in Iraq by Paul Bremer, who was appointed head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (Iraq’s post-invasion U.S.-led interim government) in 2004.

The system is ostensibly aimed at ensuring fair representation with the post of president is reserved for a Kurd; that of prime minister for a Shia Muslim; and that of Parliament Speaker for a Sunni Muslim.

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