Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 11:11 UK

Iraqi Kurds launch poll campaign

A man stands on a wall draped with election posters Sulaimaniyah, Kurdish northern Iraq, 23 June 2009
The elections are expected to be livelier than in the past

Campaigning has got under way in northern Iraq ahead of parliamentary elections for the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional assembly on 25 July.

The month-long campaign is expected to be more competitive than in the past with several opposition groups vying with the dominant PUK and PDK parties.

One party, Change, is campaigning on a platform of transparency and reform.

It could make corruption a major election issue for the first time, correspondents say.

Northern Iraq's Kurdish areas have been represented by their own parliament and government since Baghdad lost control of the region during the 1991 Gulf War between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and a US-led alliance.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, or PDK, which led the Kurdish struggle against Saddam Hussein, have largely monopolised Kurdish politics, and have joined forces for next month's elections.

But in recent years there have been signs of public discontent with the two parties, with accusations of autocracy and corruption, the BBC's Jim Muir reports from Baghdad.

Change is among the groups seeking to topple the PUK and KDP, which in the past have faced opposition mainly from Kurdish Islamic parties.

It is led by Nawshirwan Mustafa, the former deputy leader of the PUK, which is now led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

There are a total of 24 political groups competing in the elections, the first in the region for four years.

Some 2.5 million people have registered to vote.

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