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Election Monitors Arrive In Iraq's Kurdish Region

BAGHDAD (RFE/RL) -- Hundreds of international observers have arrived in the Kurdish autonomous region ahead of the July 25 parliamentary and presidential elections, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Hamdiya al-Husseini, the chairwoman of the Kurdish region's electoral commission, told RFI that about 350 foreign monitors have been registered along with over 7,000 local observers.

She said the international monitors come from various European countries, the United States, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. There are also many observers from Middle Eastern countries.

Husseini said the broad turnout shows the international interest in the Kurdish region's elections and serves as a safeguard for a free and fair vote.

Hakam al-Shahwani, the UN representative for the Kurdish elections, told RFI that the local monitors were selected by the UN mission from NGO workers. He added that most of the 7,000 local monitors are well known to the UN, which has been closely working with them over the past five years. Shahwani said the entire monitoring operation is funded by the EU.

NGO coordinator Hoger Chatu told RFI that the presence of international observers will hopefully persuade any poor losers from making unfounded accusations of fraud.

Kurdish voters will go to the polls on July 25 to elect a new president of the Kurdistan regional government and choose candidates from some 30 political entities and coalitions for the 111-seat regional parliament.