Iraqis voted on Sunday for an early election billed as a concession to anti-government protests, but were expected to be boycotted by many voters who did not rely on official promises of reform.
Voting opened at 7:00 am (0400 GMT), but some voters arrived early at a polling station in a school in central Baghdad.
“I have come to vote to change the country for the better and to replace the current incompetent leaders,” said Jimand Khalil, 37, who was the first to cast his vote. “They made a lot of promises to us but brought us nothing.”
Security was tight in the capital, as voters searched the entrances of polling stations twice.
Airports are also closed as of Monday morning across Iraq, where jihadists continue to carry out sleeper cell attacks, despite the government’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group in late 2017.
Voting remains open till 6:00 PM, with preliminary results expected within 24 hours of closing. Dozens of election observers deployed by the European Union and the United Nations were ready to monitor the vote.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi casts his vote early in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.
“This is an opportunity for change,” he said.
“Get out there and vote, change your reality, for Iraq and for your future,” urged Kadhemi, whose political future hangs in the balance, with some observers ready to speculate that in the long run. Who will come out on top after the backroom bargain. Iraqi election.
But analysts are already predicting record-low turnout for these elections, which were held a year ago in a rare concession to the youth-led protest movement.
Dozens of anti-government activists have been killed, kidnapped or threatened over the years, with allegations that pro-Iran armed groups, many of which are represented in parliament, are behind the violence.
“Iraqis must have the confidence to vote in an environment free of pressure, intimidation and intimidation,” the UN mission in Iraq said ahead of the election.
Protests in Baghdad and the South in October 2019 rocked the Shia factions that have dominated Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets to express their anger over corruption, unemployment and crumbling public services, and hundreds of people lost their lives in protest-related violence.
The protest has largely subsided as anger has given way to disillusionment.
“Nothing will change. This election will be won by the same factions that the people opposed,” said Mohammad Qasim, a 45-year-old daily wage laborer from Baghdad, vowing not to vote.
A new single-member electoral system to elect Iraq’s 329 lawmakers is believed to undermine the power of traditional blocs based largely on religious, ethnic and clan affiliations.
But most analysts agree that this would make the political process even less accountable.
The Election Commission said it expected to publish the preliminary results within 24 hours of the end of the election.
The balance of power is likely to take longer to emerge as major factions compete for the support of a large number of independent candidates.
The Fatah coalition, a bloc representing several Shia militias backed by Iran, is expected to retain its share of seats.
Populist cleric Muktada Sadar’s list, already the largest in the outgoing parliament, is expected to benefit, but not enough to dominate the Shia camp.
In an analysis published by the Washington Institute, researchers Bilal Wahab and Calvin Wilder said, “The election will result in another fragmented parliament, followed by opaque, corrupt horse-drawing between factions to form the next government.”
“Some expect this election to be more than a game of musical chairs, and the main demands of the (October 2019 protests) movement – curbing systemic corruption, creating jobs and holding armed groups accountable – are unlikely to be met. Is.”
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)