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Leading Challenger Emerges In Iraqi Kurdistan Presidential Vote

Masud Barzani is facing four challengers, but is tipped to win.
Masud Barzani is facing four challengers, but is tipped to win.
IRBIL, Iraq -- Four candidates are challenging incumbent Masud Barzani in the autonomous Kurdish region's presidential election on July 25, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Though Barzani is favored to win reelection, Halo Ibrahim Ahmad is considered a leading candidate.

Ahmad told RFI that he is an underdog in the election but was driven to run because of a keen desire among Kurds "to see new faces and real change."

Ahmad, who is the brother of Iraqi First Lady Hero Talabani, said he believes a large segment of the population sees Barzani as the head of the powerful Kurdistan Democratic Party first and president of the Kurdish regional government second.

Ahmad, 57, has been criticized for not having experienced the suffering of the Kurdish people under Saddam Hussein because he lived much of his life in Britain and the United States.

But Ahmad notes that he has been in the Kurdish region since 2000 and is familiar with the problems Kurds face. He adds that in 1991, when a Kurdish uprising was brutally crushed by Saddam Hussein, he launched an organization called Shelter that helped with reconstruction.

Ahmad told RFI that if elected president, he will fight corruption and seek to establish a more effective government, including a presidency that will report to the people each month on its progress in fulfilling campaign pledges.

Ahmad is a member of the Progress Party, which he founded last year.

The other three candidates in the election are agricultural worker Hussein Garmiyani, writer and scholar Kamal Mirawidly, and businessman Safin Sheikh Muhammad.

Elections for the Kurdish regional parliament will also be held on July 25.