Iraq elections 2018: Kirkuk minorities claim voting violations

Voting was conducted electronically in an effort to reduce fraud

An Iraqi voter has his biometric voting card checked with his fingerprint upon arriving at a poll station in the northern multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk on May 12, 2018, as the country votes in the first parliamentary election since declaring victory over the Islamic State (IS) group. Polling stations opened at 7:00 am for the roughly 24.5 million registered voters to cast their ballots across the conflict-scarred nation. / AFP / Marwan IBRAHIM
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Kirkuk’s minority groups claimed voting violations on Saturday as Iraqis headed to the polls in the first election since ousting ISIS.

Arshad Al Salehi, the head of the Turkmen Front told The National that there have been several violations in the Kurdish areas of Kirkuk.

“So far there are no observers monitoring the vote in the Kurdish populated areas, people are free to go in and vote," said Mr Al Salehi.

The Turkmen leader said that the voting process in Kirkuk's Turkmen and Arab neighbourhoods has been delayed by four hours due to a glitch in the electronic voting machines.

"This has caused many issues for us," he said. "Voting in the Kurdish areas are yet to experience any complications – it's only in the Arabic and Turkmen districts that systems are breaking down."

Voting was conducted electronically for the first time in an effort to reduce fraud.


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Kirkuk emerged as a flash point in the crisis between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad.

In October, Kurdish forces, who had controlled Kirkuk city since driving ISIS out in 2014, were in turn ejected by the Iraqi army, bringing the city back under Baghdad's control. The move followed the KRG's controversial push for an independence referendum that was deemed illegal by the central government.

Some members of the minority groups, like the Turkmen, say they had suffered under Kurdish rule and welcomed the return of Baghdad's security forces.

Throughout the course of the day, voter turnout in the Turkmen neighbourhood of Kindi appeared to be high.

Lines to individual polling rooms were long as eager voters crowded around the entrances.

Ahmed Safari, 21, was among those waiting to cast their ballot - he voted for the Turkmen Front.

"We are voting for our rights as Turkmen," he said. "We want a seat at the table and our voice to be heard".

"We want Turkmen to play a key role in the next government. We want our representatives to be in Baghdad and fight for our rights, give us more jobs and make sure we are heard".


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Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi had announced that a curfew would be partially lifted in some locations, to allow people to vote as early as possible.

The curfew will remain in locations where there is a security threat, as designated by security forces in coordination with the election commission.

The curfew in Kirkuk was lifted at 12pm local time.

Meanwhile, the city's smallest group - Christians - suspect their eight candidates, guaranteed one seat under a quota system, are being courted by bigger, rival political forces in Baghdad and Erbil.

They fear being caught in the middle of yet more instability.

"There's no Christian candidate who can afford to run without the support of a much larger side," 28-year-old Narsin Emmanuel, an unemployed university graduate.

"I hope that whichever Christian candidate wins a seat, he'll benefit personally from it - he won't be able to do anything for us because he'll be beholden to his backers."