July 29, 2009 / 3:04 PM / 11 years ago

Iraq Kurds keep parties in power, opposition gains

(Adds background, turnout)

ARBIL, Iraq, July 29 (Reuters) - Ruling parties in Iraqi Kurdistan will retain control of the Kurdish parliament after weekend polls, preliminary results showed on Wednesday.

An opposition movement, campaigning against corruption and for political reforms, took a surprise 23.8 percent, electoral officials said in the Kurdish capital Arbil.

The election come against the backdrop of mounting tensions between Kurdish officials and the Baghdad government, locked in a feud over oil and disputed territory that may pose the next major threat to Iraq just as sectarian violence ebbs.

The polls results are unlikely to change the Kurds’ quest for control of the oil-producing region of Kirkuk, an uneasy ethnic mix of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen which Kurds consider their ancestral homeland and want to make part of their semi-autonomous northern Kurdish encalve.

Masoud Barzani was reelected with 69.6 percent of the presidential vote while the two-party ruling alliance, including Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), received 57 percent of the parliamentary vote.

The polls, the first time voters in the largely autonomous northern region elected a president directly, went off on Saturday without major disruptions. After polls closed, electoral officials said turnout was close to 80 percent.

But opposition parties, for the first time making a real challenge to the region’s two-party hegemony, complained of voting fraud and aggression from KDP-PUK supporters. They said even before preliminary figures were announced they would not accept the results.

The electoral commission has said it is looking into complaints but did not expect them to affect the outcome. (Writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

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