Reports of Fraud Already Arising in Kurdistan Charges of fraud and irregularities in the Iraqi election already are emerging from Iraqi Kurdistan. Election monitors say Kurdish militia refused to leave their weapons outside polling stations and refused to have their fingers inked to ensure no double voting.
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Reports of Fraud Already Arising in Kurdistan

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Reports of Fraud Already Arising in Kurdistan

Reports of Fraud Already Arising in Kurdistan

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IVAN WATSON reporting:

This is Ivan Watson in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tempers flared in a polling station in the Kurdish city of Irbil after four election monitors alleged that some 200 Kurdish militiamen in uniform broke election rules by showing up to vote carrying guns.

(Soundbite of polling station activity)

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

WATSON: One of the monitors, Tahan Yassin(ph) of the Election Information Network, said the militiamen were not registered to vote at this polling station and refused to abide by rules aimed at ensuring there is no double voting.

Mr. TAHAN YASSIN (Election Monitor): (Through Translator) One of them was a major of the emergency forces. He didn't put his finger into the ink and he said that we go to the other polling station and we vote again.

WATSON: Throughout the day election workers were seen on several occasions bending, if not breaking, the rules to allow more votes in favor of the Kurdistan Alliance, a coalition led by the two armed factions that have ruled northern Iraq for more than a decade.

(Soundbite of polling station activity)

WATSON: At this polling station in the center of Irbil, a crowd of dozens of people showed up minutes before closing time to cast ballots without showing proper identification. Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's Kurdish foreign minister, insists there were no large-scale violations.

Mr. HOSHYAR ZEBARI (Kurdish Foreign Minister): There may be some small irregularities here and there--I'm not defending any of those--and this is lack of political education, the experience. This is a new experience in the country.

WATSON: Thanks in part to powerful Kurdish militias, Iraqi Kurdistan is more secure than the rest of Iraq, but that didn't make the run-up to this election more fair. Last week mobs, sometimes backed by security forces, torched the offices of an opposition Kurdish party in six separate towns on the same day and killed an opposition candidate for parliament. Despite the bloodshed, turnout today was high in what quickly became a celebration of Kurdish nationalism.

(Soundbite of celebration)

WATSON: The Kurdish leadership organized street parties where young men danced and waved the red, green and yellow flag of Kurdistan. Though the Kurds predict they will lose as many as 20 seats in parliament to Sunni Arab politicians, Kurdish leaders say they still hope to capture the second-largest group of seats behind the main Shiite Arab alliance. The Kurds' first political objective, says Hoshyar Zebari, will be protecting Iraqi Kurdistan's autonomy by preventing amendments to the brand-new Iraqi constitution.

Mr. ZEBARI: That is the document really that maintained Iraq's unity, maintains Iraq sovereignty and a departure from those principles, I think, will get you back to square one.

WATSON: The next priority, Zebari says, will be annexing Kirkuk, an oil-rich city that's long been claimed by the Kurds. Ivan Watson, NPR News, Irbil.

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