Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan have returned the ruling coalition under President Massoud Barzani to power. The opposition, however, managed to make substantial gains.
Barzani was re-elected but lost votes to the opposition
Massoud Barzani has been re-elected as president of Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan. According to Iraq's electoral commission, Barzani, who had been tipped to win, took 69 percent of the vote in Saturday's presidential poll.
In the parliamentary poll, the coalition of Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union Kurdistan (PUK) won 57 percent of the vote.
"We are happy with these preliminary results and with the success of this election. It is a proud day for our people," KDP official Jaafar Ibrahim said.
The opposition party Gorran, Kurdish for "Change" marked significant gains in the polls. Gorran, largely made up of PUK defectors condemned what it called voter fraud in the elections, insisting they had received more votes than preliminary results showed.
According to the electoral committee, Gorran won 23.8 percent of the vote. In the presidential poll, the party's candidate Kamal Mirawdeli received 25 percent.
The leftist-Islamist party Services and Reforms took 12.8 percent of the vote for the 111-seat parliament.
The preliminary results came shortly after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to the Iraq's Kurdish enclave. Gates had urged Barzani to reduce tensions with the central government in Baghdad.
Gates said Washington was increasingly worried that the rift between minority Kurds and majority Arabs would trigger renewed violence once US troops withdraw from Iraq.
Control over the oil-producing region of Kirkuk is at the heart of the dispute between the Baghdad and the Kurdish north.
Editor: Neil King