Polls open in Iraq's general elections, a test for democratic system - GulfToday

Polls open in Iraq's general elections, a test for democratic system


A voter holds an inked finger at a polling station in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Sunday. Reuters

Gulf Today Report

Iraq closed its airspace and land border crossings on Sunday as voters headed to the polls to elect a parliament that many hope will deliver much needed reforms after decades of conflict and mismanagement.

Many said in the country that they would boycott, having lost faith in the democratic system brought in by the US invasion of 2003.


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The vote was brought forward by six months in response to a popular uprising in the capital Baghdad and southern provinces in late 2019, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest endemic corruption, poor services and rising unemployment.

At least 167 parties and more than 3,200 candidates are competing for Iraq's 329 seats in parliament, according to the country's election commission.

An Iraqi woman casts her vote at a polling center in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday. AP

More than 250,000 security personnel across the country were tasked with protecting the vote. Army troops, police and anti-terrorism forces fanned out and deployed outside polling stations, some of which were ringed by barbed wire.

Although authorities gave in and called the early elections, the death toll and the heavy-handed crackdown prompted many young activists and demonstrators who took part in the protests to later call for a boycott of the polls.

Iraqi elections are often followed by months of protracted negotiations over a president, a prime minister and a cabinet.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi shows his inked finger after casting his vote in Baghdad on Sunday. Reuters

Polls opened at 7am (0400 GMT) and will close at 6pm (1500 GMT). Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi headed to cast his ballot as soon as the voting started, state TV reported.

The election is the first since the fall of Saddam to proceed without a curfew in place, reflecting the significantly improved security situation in the country following the defeat of the Islamic State group in 2017. Previous votes were marred by fighting and deadly bomb attacks that have plagued the country for decades.

As a security precaution, Iraq has closed its airspace and scrambled its air force from Saturday night until early Monday morning.


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