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 Kurdistan Elections: The Secret Voter? 

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Kurdistan Elections: The Secret Voter?  6.7.2009 
By Shkow Sharif  

July 6, 2009

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — On a two day fact finding trip to Erbil I was able to speak to a number of their citizens to gauge their opinions on the 2009 elections. To my surprise it seems that the “Change” list in Erbil, just like in Sulaimaniyah, has strong support. However, there seems to be an underlying sense of fear in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) territories of airing there true feelings in public.

On my first encounter I left my hotel and haled a new yellow Kurdish Taxi. As the driver approached I noticed he went for his radio before stopping. I boarded thinking nothing of it and I asked him to take me to the city Bazaar. After starting a conversation with the driver I asked him how he saw the election. He looked over his shoulder (in Saddam Iraq type of way) and said “why don’t you tell me first?” I told the gentlemen that I had no affiliation but just an interested reporter. After showing him my British driving license the man opened up to me. He said “press the on button on the radio” and as I did the station was set on Dangy Goran, the “Change” lists radio station. I couldn’t help but laugh and asked the man why he switched it off in the first place. He replied “I fear the consequences.” 
The Change "Goran" List, was formed by PUK’s former second in command, Nawshirwan Mustafa.

Another notable encounter was again with another Taxi Driver. Who had a picture of the Kurdistan List logo on his red and white taxi. As I boarded I was hoping to fool the gentleman into thinking I was a “Change” list supporter so we could have a debate throughout the journey. I started by saying “What a horrid logo on your cab!” The driver looked at me puzzled and said “why who do you support?” I replied “Gorran” (“Change”). He looked at me and smiled and said “Thank God, I thought you were! Especially with your Sulaimaniyah accent, so am I.” He then turned the radio on and there again was Dangy Goran radio station pre tuned. I asked the man why he had the logo he just said “It makes things a lot easier.”

Having said all of this, there are also many supporters in the city that air their views in public. One of the shopkeepers whom I asked openly said he supported the “Change” List. I asked him if he wasn’t afraid to be so open. He said “I am done with being afraid, I wasn’t afraid of Saddam I will not be afraid of anyone.”

The “Change” list is also campaigning to end this fear by informing people that they need not be afraid. I was told by a “Change” List activist that “people who are scared shouldn’t air their views in public but should instead air their views in the ballot box where their vote is between them and god”

Nawshirwan Mustafa, a former deputy leader and co-founder of PUK plans to head a political group of independents called "Change" in the region's upcoming parliamentary elections. He left Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party (PUK) in December 2006, now owns a powerful media company, Wisha, the company, which includes a television station, newspaper and website, is now independent and highly critical of local leaders.

The IHEC has set July 25 as the date for parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan region. The elections will coincide with the presidential polls.
A total of 509 candidates from 20 political blocs and five alliances encompassing 15 blocs are competing for 111 seats in the upcoming parliamentary polls.

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