Voters in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region went to polling stations on Saturday for parliamentary elections in which many observers believe the region 's political landscape could change.
About 2.8 million people in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region are eligible to vote in the parliamentary elections, the fourth such polls since Iraqi Kurds established the autonomous region in 1991, as 1,129 candidates are vying for the 111 seats in the regional legislature.
For the first time since the elections in 1992, the two main parties in the region -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani -- are competing individually in the race.
The two parties, which dominate Kurdish politics in Iraq over the past decades, ran on joint lists in the last two elections and ruled the region through a coalition government as part of a wider power-sharing arrangement. They won a total of 59 seats in the last election in 2009.
However, the years-old KDP-PUK duopoly in Kurdish politics is facing challenge this time as the PUK is fighting to maintain its position since its veteran leader Talabani has been out of the political spotlight after a reported stroke in December 2012.
The largest opposition party, the Gorran (Change) movement, is hoping to change region's political landscape as it is increasingly popular, especially in the PUK's traditional heartland of Sulaymaniyah, one of the three provinces in the autonomous Kurdish region.
The Gorran movement, led by former PUK deputy leader Nawshirwan Mustafa, won 25 seats in its debut in the 2009 election.
The KDP, which has traditionally been strong in the provinces of Duhok and Arbil, is widely expected to win the largest number of seats in the race but still will likely need the backing of another major party to form a stable government.