A member of the Independent High Electoral Commission prays near ballot boxes during a vote counting at an analysis centre in Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, May 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani)
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President Jalal Talabani, a revered figure for many Kurds, has held the post since 2006, helping to mediate conflicts between Iraq's religious and ethnic groups.While the presidency is largely ceremonial, having a Kurd as head of state is important to many Kurds after years of government oppression that saw tens of thousands of Kurds killed by now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, including in infamous chemical weapons attacks such as the 1988 strike on Halabja.There are three top posts in Iraq's federal government, and under a de facto agreement the prime minister is typically a Shiite Arab, the president a Kurd and the speaker of parliament a Sunni Arab.Some Kurds say that obtaining one of the top three government posts is more important than holding the presidency specifically, and that they would be open to a Kurd taking the post of parliament speaker instead.
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