Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 14:13 UK

Viewpoints: Iraqi Kurdistan polls

Map of Iraqi Kurdistan

The three provinces of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region will elect a president and parliament on Saturday, amid a land dispute with Baghdad over oil-rich Kirkuk, and tensions over oil exports.

The two power-sharing Kurdish parties - the KDP and the PUK - are facing a new reformist party, Change, which hopes to break their stranglehold on power. Five voters discuss what's important to them in the forthcoming poll.

Mateen Dooski

Mateen Dooski

Alan Ali

Alan Ali

Savina Dawood

Savina Dawood

Hassan Jalal

Hassan Jalal

Ako Omer

Ako Omer

Mateen Dooski, 50s, retired, Dohuk
Mateen Dooski

Of course I will vote for [incumbent] Massud Barzani for president. I won't say who I will vote for in the parliament.

Barzani was a fighter when he was a teenager, he is dedicated to his cause. He's a well-known figure, not only locally but internationally.

Not everything is perfect, but compared to the situation before 1991, a lot has been achieved. We are free, there is no oppression, there is good security. There are better roads. Before '91, we had just half a university in the whole Kurdistan Regional Government region, now we have more than 10.

The biggest task facing the KRG is the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution (a referendum on whether Kurdish areas of Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah ad Din and Ninawa provinces should become part of Iraqi Kurdistan). This would bring the 60% of purely Kurdish areas not run by the KRG: Kirkuk, Mosul, Diyala, under its control.

The issue of corruption should be tackled, this is a big problem. As I said, not everything is perfect, but that does not mean that we should destroy our unity. The two key parties are now very united, without unity we lose everything.

Alan Ali

I will be voting for the Kurdistani list, the current government. Even with their problems, we can see overall development.

Of the alternatives, I don't believe in mixing religion with government so I wouldn't vote for the Islamic parties. The Change party is good, but we don't know where their change would take us. They are united because they are against the current system.

This government grew out of the people who fought in the mountains. There needs to be segregation between the party, the government and civil society. But the good news is that the basis for this segregation is already here. We have a free media. Although the two allied parties - the PUK and KDP - have most of the TV stations, they do not stop others having them.

On Kirkuk - I think it should be part of Kurdistan. I'm not just being selfish because I am Kurdish and want the oil money - Kirkuk is connected to the region. Most of the people there are Kurdish, despite the Arabs brought in by previous governments. And Kirkuk is just one of many cities like this.

The first thing central government thinks about is how to control Kurdish areas. There is a clear intention to minimise our independence, our resources, our outlook. The most important thing for Kurds to do is stay united, otherwise the past could be repeated. This is one good reason for voting for the Kurdish list, they have experience in dealing with the central government.

Savina Rafaeel Dawood, 19, university student, Arbil
Savina Dawood

I am Assyrian, not Kurdish. Saturday will be the first time I vote, and it will be for the Assyrian Zowaa party on the 'Mesopotamia' list which will give me my rights.

Assyrians were the first people here, this is our land. And now we are treated as strangers, which disturbs me. It saddens me that Assyrians and Christians are being persecuted out of Mosul.

About 10 years ago, when we were living in a Muslim neighbourhood, our house was bombed, just because we were Christians.

The windows and doors were all blown in, but we were fine. After that we moved to a more Christian town in Arbil. It still affects me, it makes me feel like I'm not welcome here, in my own land.

At university, I'm sociable with everyone. I don't care if people are Kurdish, Muslim or whatever and they treat me how I treat them.

But I wear an Assyrian flag pin brooch and sometimes people make fun of it. That hurts me.

If someone says: "Do you guys even have your own flag?" I tell them they should respect us because the Assyrians had a civilisation here thousands of years before they even arrived.

But they don't believe me. It shouldn't just be politicians who know these things.

The quota of reserved seats in parliament for minorities is not enough, of course. But for now, as we're the minority, I guess it will do.

Hassan Jalal, NGO worker, Dohuk
Hassan Jalal

We want a free and fair election, but is this possible? The central government, regional governments and the unstable attitude of the US all jeopardise the democratisation of the Kurdistan region.

But compared to elections in neighbouring countries it will be fair.

I am an independent Kurd not affiliated to any political party. When I was a university student I was imprisoned twice by the Ba'ath Party [Saddam Hussein's ruling party] for being independent.

It's not easy to live with poor health care, unsafe water and fewer than 10 hours of low voltage electricity, but Kurdish people would prefer this than to be ruled by others who treat us as less then human.

The most important thing for the KRG and the president is to increase diplomatic relations with foreign countries, especially European ones.

Also to help central government implement Article 140 because until this happens, extremists can create sectarian divisions in Iraq. Also, it allows corruption to continue. The government should be completely separate from political parties.

I don't think the KRG's territory will be increased; central and neighbouring governments are against the idea of expanding the KRG control.

We should also consider the rights of Kurds in neighbouring countries when we talk about KRG's expansion.

Twenty years ago there was just one political party, the Ba'ath Party, one TV channel, and two main streets in Duhok. All young people were in the military and people were losing their boys in battle. People were afraid to speak about politics even within the family.

Now we are free to criticise the government's performance. We have new schools, hospitals and roads. We have different satellite TV channels and access to the internet at home. Everything has changed.

Ako Omer, 26, hospital doctor, Sulaimaniya
Ako Omer

I will be voting for the Kurdistani list, like I did last time. I see the campaign is going safely and democratically, without problems.

There is corruption, sure, but overall what is good outweighs the bad.

We are a developing country, it's not like living in the UK or the US. But there are plans to improve the area, and people's basic needs are provided for.

The most important thing for the KRG is to solve the problem of the central government. We need to support our government so Kirkuk can be returned to Kurdistan.

Too much of the oil money from the Kurdistan region goes back to the centre at the moment. In future, Kurdistan should get more of its money.

I'm sure our relationship with central government will be better if the money comes back to the region exclusively.

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