Voting has kicked off for the parliamentary election in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. Thousands of soldiers and security and police officers have cast their ballots ahead of Saturday’s main vote. But amid the election campaigning, there has been a spate of violence. Supporters of rival Kurdish parties have been involved in deadly clashes in Sulaymaniyah city.
Sulaymaniyah city is the stronghold for one of the Kurdistan Region’s two ruling parties - the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The city is also the stomping ground for the main opposition party - the Change Movement. Officials from the Change Movement blame Patriotic Union supporters for the violence.
Officials from the Patriotic Union have played down the election violence.
Over one thousand candidates will compete in Saturday’s parliamentary election. One hundred seats are up for grabs, while eleven have been reserved for Kurdistan’s religious and ethnic minorities.
The opposition Change Movement has been campaigning fiercely to unseat the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Some analysts say that the Change Movement has become stronger since it entered Kurdistan’s political scene in the 2009 election. But the Patriotic Union remains confident that it can maintain or even increase its parliamentary seats.