ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – After opening the polls for the Kurdistan Region's over 170,000 security forces on Friday morning, early voting for regional parliamentary elections closed as dusk approached with high voter turnout being reported.
In order to be freed up to provide security for Sunday's election, 99 polling centers were opened to members of the Asayish, Peshmerga, and police in all four provinces in the region.
According to the Independent High Electoral and Referendum Commission (IHERC), Erbil Province saw 92.78 percent of eligible voters turning up, Sulaimani saw 89 percent, 93.6 percent showed up in Dohuk, and 93 percent in Halabja.
IHERC officials also announced that the process of counting and sorting ballots began shortly after voting closed.
The process appears to have gone much more smoothly than during the May 12 national elections, marred by malfunctioning electronic vote-counting devices which added to the strength of a chorus of political parties charging various forms of voter fraud throughout Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region. To alleviate such complications, IHERC announced early in its preparations that it would forego the use of the machines and count all ballots manually.
A new regulation also stipulates that the commission is charged with taking close-up photographs of each voter and that, in the event that formal complaints of irregularities or fraud are brought, investigations will be opened to scrutinize each claim.
On Sunday, 773 candidates from 29 political parties will compete for a seat in the 111-seat parliament in the semi-autonomous region, vying for votes at 5,941 local voting centers.
Though the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region technically falls under the federal jurisdiction of the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad to which it sends provincial representatives, it has its own parliament in the region's capital of Erbil as well.