Polls open in Iraqi Kurdistan for regional election

Voting in the Kurdistan autonomous region's electoral elections began on September 28 for over a 170,000 members of the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, ahead of the general vote scheduled for September 30. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018
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Polls open in Iraqi Kurdistan for regional election

  • The PUK and the Irbil-based Barzani’s KDP together form a dynastic duopoly predicated on patronage in the regions they respectively control
  • There are 111-seats up for grabs in Sunday’s election

IRBIL/SULAIMANIA, Iraq: Kurds began voting in a parliamentary election in their semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq on Sunday, a year after a failed bid for independence.

With opposition parties weak, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are likely to extend their almost three decades of sharing power.

Years of stagnant politics, unpaid salaries and corruption have undermined faith in politics and shrunk the turnout in recent elections.

Splits within the PUK present the possibility that Masoud Barzani’s KDP will take a dominant position in Kurdish politics.

The PUK and the Erbil-based Barzani's KDP together form a dynastic duopoly predicated on patronage in the regions they respectively control.

There are 111-seats up for grabs in Sunday's election, including 11 reserved for ethnic minorities.

But most major parties say they do not expect more than about 40 percent of the 3.85 million registered voters to go to the polls. Polls will close at 6pm. Preliminary results are expected within 72 hours.

In Sulaimaniya, stronghold of the PUK, only a handful of people trickled in to vote at the Shireen school, which has 4 separate polling stations.

“I wanted to make sure I voted early. I gave my vote to Gorran and hope for the best,” said Omar Mahmoud Abdullah, 52, referring to the main opposition party.

All opposition parties were weakened by dismal showings in May’s federal election, amid multiple allegations - not confirmed in the subsequent recount - of fraud by the two main parties.

The contentious referendum on independence in 2017, led by Barzani, promised to set Iraq’s Kurds on a path to a homeland.

Instead, a swift backlash from Baghdad dashed those prospects and diminished the region’s autonomy.

Nevertheless, some showed optimism about the future. Salar Karim arrived at a polling station with his wife and two young children, all dressed festively for the occasion.

“Today is a historic day for Kurds,” Karim, 50, said. “We get to elect our parliament as is our duty. I feel good about today.”


‘Storm approaching’: firms fear for deliveries in shipping shakeup

Updated 2 min 8 sec ago
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‘Storm approaching’: firms fear for deliveries in shipping shakeup

  • For shipping companies it is the biggest shakeup in decades
  • Higher transport bills and disruption to company deliveries could further dent economic growth

LONDON/LOS ANGELES: US furniture company RC Willey Home Furnishings is so concerned that new global clean air rules will cause transport disruption that it brought forward the shipment of arm chairs and sofas from China by two months.
The tougher regulations, set by the United Nations shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), come into force on Jan 1. Costs will rise for ships toward the end of this year and there will be a knock on effect for trucks and other transporters that move goods around the world.
For shipping companies it is the biggest shakeup in decades and adds to the pressures of an economic slowdown and the threat of an escalating trade war between the United States and China.
While consumers are not expected to pay more for goods, higher transport bills and disruption to company deliveries could further dent economic growth.
Ship owners must cut sulfur emissions to 0.5% from 3.5%. They can do this by using low-sulfur fuel, installing exhaust gas cleaning systems or opting for other, more expensive, clean fuels such as liquefied natural gas or traveling more slowly.
Jeff Child, president of Berkshire Hathaway’s RC Willey Home Furnishings, moved the delivery of about 450 containers from September and October to July and August. He wants to avoid any disruption in the peak fourth quarter as ships prepare for the changes, including refitting equipment.
“We just don’t want to get caught in a situation where it affects our inventory,” he told Reuters.
Analysts say the container industry, which transports consumer goods such as sofas, designer clothes and bananas, will be one of the worst hit with extra costs of about $10 billion.
The world’s two biggest container shipping lines — Denmark’s Maersk and Swiss headquartered MSC — say they face annual extra costs of over $2 billion each.
Twenty-five logistics company executives told Reuters they would pass along any IMO-related costs, such as ship upgrades or more expensive fuel, to customers.
“The sulfur cap will further put pressure on ocean freight rates and we... will have to pass those costs on to remain competitive,” Peder Winther, global head of ocean freight with Swiss transportation company Panalpina Group said.

Truckers worried
Economists say manufacturers are expected to absorb their part of the cost and are unlikely to raise the price of consumer goods, but the hit to companies could be a drag on the world economy.
A Nestle S.A. spokesperson said the food group was talking to transport companies about “fuel adjustment methodology” to reflect the impact of the new rules.
“Higher fuel prices would result in higher transport costs,” said Peter Nagle, an economist with the World Bank’s Development Prospects Group. “This would have the potential to lead to slower economic growth and trade.”
Trucking companies will also suffer. The IMO rules do not apply to them but they will face new competition from ships for lower sulfur fuel. This is expected to push up the price of diesel fuel for trucks by as much as 100 percent.
Small to mid-sized truckers may find it tough as they lack the clout to negotiate fuel deals or to recoup the costs.
“I’m at the whim of the market. All I can do is let the customers know what’s going on,” said Mike Baicher, president and chief executive of New Jersey based West End Express, which runs 90 trucks in New York, New Jersey and along the East Coast.
“There is only so much that the trucking company can absorb.”
In a letter sent to top US government officials including National Security Adviser John Bolton, transport associations including trucking groups said there was consensus that US transport industries would be “negatively affected by IMO 2020 pricing pressure.” It said there could be market disruptions.
“There’s a storm approaching but we don’t know how bad the storm is going to be,” said Glen Kedzie, energy and environmental counsel for the American Trucking Associations.

“You’re going to pay”
Shipping and freight forwarding companies, who offer a service overseeing the delivery of goods from beginning to end, expect to feel more cost pressure.
Bart de Vries, chief operating officer for air & sea with US headquartered Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, expects to pay more for services as shipping companies pass along the costs.
Some companies may overhaul their business plans.
“It will undoubtedly force many exporters and importers to review their sourcing strategies and vendors,” said Cas Pouderoyen, senior vice president of ocean freight with global logistics company Agility
Richard Fattal, co-founder of digital freight forwarder and logistics provider Zencargo, said there could be as much as a 10 to 20% rise in overall operating costs next year.
Allen Clifford, a US-based executive vice president with MSC, said at a recent forum in California that his company was facing huge expenses.
“Who’s going to pay for it? You’re going to pay for it. Because I’m tired of paying for it,” he told industry executives, and port and customs officials.