The powerful ruling parties fended off the opposition challenge from The Change list, which is headed by Noshirwan Mustafa, a former PUK official, which stood on a platform of tackling corruption within the administration.

The results come as Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, heads to Irbil, the regional capital, for talks with Barzani.

Gates hopes to help defuse tensions between the Kurdish regional government and the Iraqi central government in Baghdad over the country's natural resources.

The Kurdish regional administration's aggressive strategy for exploiting their own oil and gas fields has led them into conflict with the Iraqi oil ministry.

The Kurds have asserted their right to the oil-producing Kirkuk region and other disputed areas lying outside the current borders of their enclave.