Iraqis vote for new parliament in hopes of change

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A spate of targeted kidnappings and assassinations that killed more than 35 people further deterred many from participating. Apathy is rampant amid deep skepticism that independent candidates stand a chance against established parties and politicians, many of whom are backed by armed militias.

“I voted because we need change. I don’t want those same faces and same parties to come back, ”said Amir Fadel, a 22-year-old car dealer, after voting in Karradah district in Baghdad.

A total of 3,449 candidates are running for 329 seats in the legislative elections, which will be the sixth held since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the sectarian political system of power sharing it produced.

More than 250,000 security guards across the country have been tasked with protecting the ballot. Soldiers, police and counterterrorism forces deployed and deployed outside the polling stations, some of which were surrounded by barbed wire. Voters were searched and searched.

Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi urged Iraqis to vote in large numbers.

“Come out and vote, and change your reality for the good of Iraq and your future,” al-Kadhimi said, repeating the phrase “come out” three times after voting at a school in the heavily walled green zone of Baghdad, home to foreign embassies and government offices.

The 2018 election only saw 44% of eligible voters cast their ballot, a record, and the results were widely disputed. We fear a similar or even lower participation this time.

At noon, turnout was still relatively low and the streets mostly deserted. In a tea room in Karradah, one of the few open, candidate Reem Abdulhadi entered to ask if people had voted.

“I will give my vote to Umm Kalthoum, the singer, she is the only one who deserves it,” replied the tea seller, referring to the deceased Egyptian singer loved by many in the Arab world. He said he would not participate in the elections and that he did not believe in the political process.

After a few words, Abdulhadi gave the man, who asked to remain anonymous, a card with his name and number in case he decided to change his mind. He put it in his pocket.

“Thank you, I will keep it as a souvenir,” he said.

At this moment, a military plane flying at low speed and at high speed flew over the sky with a shrill noise. “Listen to this. This sound is terror. It reminds me of war, not an election,” he added.

In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, the influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr voted, surrounded by local journalists. He then drove off in a white sedan without commenting. Al-Sadr, a populist with immense numbers among working-class Iraqi Shiites, won the 2018 election, winning a majority of the seats.

Groups drawn from the majority of Iraqi Shiite Muslims dominate the electoral landscape, with a close race expected between al-Sadr’s list and the Fatah Alliance, led by paramilitary leader Hadi al-Ameri, who came second in the elections. previous elections.

The Fatah Alliance is made up of parties affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coordination group of mainly pro-Iranian Shiite militias that rose to prominence during the war against the extremist Sunni group Islamic State. It includes some of the toughest pro-Iran factions, such as the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia. Al-Sadr, a black-turbaned nationalist leader, is also close to Iran, but publicly rejects his political influence.

In the Kurdish Autonomous Region of northern Iraq, the race was dominated by the two main Kurdish parties known as the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which dominates the Kurdish government, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

The election is the first since Saddam’s fall to take place without a curfew, reflecting the significant improvement in the security situation in the country following the defeat of ISIS in 2017. Previous votes have been marred by fighting and deadly bomb attacks in the country. for decades.

As a security measure, Iraq closed its airspace and land border crossings and mobilized its air forces from Saturday evening to early Monday morning.

In another first, Sunday’s elections are being held under a new electoral law that divides Iraq into smaller constituencies – another request from activists who took part in the 2019 protests – and allows for more independent candidates.

A UN Security Council resolution passed earlier this year authorized an expanded team to monitor the elections. There will be up to 600 international observers in place, including 150 from the United Nations. More than 24 million of the 38 million Iraqis have the right to vote.

Iraq is also introducing biometric cards for voters for the first time. But despite all of these measures, allegations of voice-buying, intimidation and manipulation have persisted.

The head of the Iraqi electoral commission said the first election results would be announced within 24 hours.


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