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Turkmen group wary of Kurdish influence

Feb. 25, 2009 at 10:57 AM

ERBIL, Iraq, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Incidents of intimidation and inconsistencies in the results of the Iraqi provincial elections suggest a bias toward Kurdish groups, a Turkmen group said.

A report by the Iraqi Turkmen Human Rights Research Foundation said abnormalities in the election process in an emerging democracy such as Iraq are expected. In the northern and some of the eastern provinces, however, minority communities seeking representation are "still the most vulnerable to discrimination at the ballot boxes."

The report says ingrained sectarianism and nationalist ideals, as well as a general inexperience with elections, fostered a landscape conducive to fraud and intimidation.

The group said several candidates in the provincial elections were reluctant to campaign against Kurdish lists while voters were subject to bribes or threats if they did not state their support for Kurds.

Meanwhile, several unused ballots were filled out in support of Kurdish groups by election staff in several polling centers where observer presence was low. The polling centers in Khanaqin in the north of Diyala province had no international observers, the group said.

Iraqi election officials announced the official results of the provincial elections Feb. 19. In Ninawa and Diyala, Kurdish slates scored in the top tier but lost out to Sunni rivals. Turkmen took just two seats in northern Salah ad-Din.

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