This weekend 10,000 to 12,000 Kurds from across the Southeast are expected to travel to Middle Tennessee to participate in Iraqi Parliamentary elections.
Nashville was selected as one of nine voting centers in the U.S. because of the city’s large Kurdish population, estimated at 10,000.
Hassan Merani, a spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said this election is a direct result of the war in Iraq.
“The main thing I want people in the United States to know is that this is probably one of the best and most democratic election in history of the Middle East,” Merani said.
While the official Iraqi election will be Sunday, March 7, Iraqi expatriates in the U.S. will vote Friday through Sunday to accommodate the large numbers and few polling stations.
Expatriates from Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri will vote in Nashville for candidates to represent them in their provincial council in Iraq.
“I know a lot of people have a hard position about the government and [President] George Bush going to Iraq,” Merani said. “But this is what is happening because of all the sacrifice of the United States people.”
According to Merani, 6,172 total candidates from more than 240 political parties are vying for 325 seats on Iraq’s Council of Representatives. Merani said his party is pushing about 250 candidates with the Kurdistan Alliance to ensure Kurds are well represented in the various Iraqi provinces.
Jamil Sameen of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, which is working alongside the KDP, agreed with Merani’s assessment of the election.
“It’s new for that area in the Middle East and there are similarities in the election’s here and the election there in Iraq,” Sameen said. “Hopefully, all of the Iraqis who got the right to vote will practice this right and go ahead and vote.”
The Nashville polling center will be at 4527 Nolensville Pike, near the old Lowe’s location. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.