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Iraqis look for poll shake-up

IRAQIS voting in yesterday's election in the self-ruled Kurdish north expressed hope it would shake up the entrenched regional government and help reduce tension with Baghdad over oil and land disputes that threaten Iraq's stability.

The election for the region's president and 111-seat parliament will test a political establishment that has kept the semi-autonomous region relatively safe but faces allegations of corruption and has often clashed with the Arab-dominated central government.

Security measures have been tightened in the region's three northern provinces -- Irbil, Dahuk and Sulaimaniyah -- for the poll.

The 2.5 million eligible voters are only allowed to walk or take government authorized buses to polling centers which are also in Baghdad.

"Today is a revenge day against the main parties," said 44-year-old Shobo Mahmoud shortly after casting his ballot in Sulaimaniyah, 260 kilometers northeast of Baghdad.

"We are suffering from poor public services despite all the promises they made before and the support we gave to these politicians."

The two dominant political coalitions, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, face a challenge from new opposition alliances seeking to capitalize on alleged misconduct and corruption.

The two main coalition leaders, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, hope their parties can withstand the burgeoning challenge.


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