26 Jul 2009

Polls closed in Kurdistan elections

9:59 am on 26 July 2009

Polls have closed in presidential and parliamentary elections in Kurdistan.

Incumbent President Masood Barzani and the two main parties are expected to win, despite a strong campaign by the reformist Change movement.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, himself a Kurd, has called it a great day for the region, which is autonomous.

Ballots will be flown to Baghdad for tallying. The official count is expected to take two to three days.

It was the first time the president of Kurdistan is being elected directly by popular vote.

The Electoral Commission said turnout was 78.5% on Saturday.

President Barzani says he hopes the elections will be a "first step to solving issues with Baghdad", alluding to tensions over land, oil and power in the region.