Iraqi polls open in first elections since victory over ISIS

Iraq goes to the polls amid tight security in the first election since victory was declared over ISIS

  • Since the defeat of terror group, Iraq has seen a lull in insurgent attacks but armed guards and curfew in place
  • Some 7000 candidates standing, vote will be conducted electronically for first time in bid to reduce fraud
  • Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces stiff competition from political parties with closer ties to Iran 
  • Iraq continues to struggle with an economic downturn sparked in part by a drop in global oil prices
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Polls opened across Iraq on Saturday in the first national election since the declaration of victory over the Islamic State group.

After weeks of official campaigning, no clear front-runner has emerged as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces stiff competition from political parties with closer ties to Iran.

In central Baghdad, voters supporting al-Abadi said they are doing so because they give him credit for Iraq’s military victory over IS.


Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is searched as he arrives at a polling station to cast his vote in the Parliamentary elections


Barham Salih, head of the Coalition for Democracy and Justice and his wife, show their ink-stained index fingers after voting at a polling station in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah


A woman casting her ballot using the electronic voting system that has been introduced in bid to stamp out fraud


She shows her ink-stained finger to confirm that she has cast her vote in the country’s parliamentary elections in Baghdad


Iraqi women queue at a polling station in the Wadi Hajar district of Mosul, the main city held by ISIS in Iraq 


Lader of the Conquest Coalition and the Iran-backed Shia militia Badr Organisation Hadi al-Amiri prepares to casts his vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Baghdad, Iraq


Security forces stand guard outside a polling station during the parliamentary election in the Sadr city district of Baghdad,


People queue in front of a polling station in the Wadi Hajar district of Mosul as the security forces stand guard 


A member of the Iraqi federal police speaks to a man outside a poll station in the capital Baghdad’s Karrada district


An Iraqi woman prepares to cast her vote in the country’s parliamentary elections in Baghdad, Iraq


Electronic voting has been introduced in a bid to cut down on fraud. It total, 329 parliamentary seats are up for grabs 

Al-Abadi ‘took revenge’ for civilians killed in insurgent attacks in Iraq ‘with the victory over Daesh,’ said 71-year-old Felihah Hassan, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

After IS overran nearly a third of Iraq in the summer of 2014, the group launched waves of suicide bombings targeting civilians in Baghdad and other pockets of government-controlled territory.

With support from the U.S.-led coalition and Iran, al-Abadi oversaw a grueling war against the extremists and declared victory over the group in December.

Since then, Baghdad has experienced a relative lull in insurgent-style attacks, but in the lead up to Saturday’s vote Iraqi security forces have imposed tight security measures including a curfew.

Despite al-Abadi’s military achievements, Iraq continues to struggle with an economic downturn sparked in part by a drop in global oil prices, entrenched corruption and years of political gridlock.


Al-Abadi having his biometric voting card checked with his fingerprint upon arriving at a poll station in the capital Baghdad’s Karrada district


A voter has his biometric voting card checked with his fingerprint upon arriving at a poll station in the capital Baghdad’s Karrada district


The results of Saturday’s election are expected within 48 hours of the vote, according to the independent body overseeing the election


 The election sees dozens of political alliances battling it out for the 329 parliamentary seats available


Government formation negotiations are expected to drag on for months after that as the dozens of political parties attempt to cobble together a political bloc 


A campaign poster of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in seen in Baghdad, Iraq. No front runner has emerged in the poll but he is hoping to benefit from the victory over ISIS 

Another key player in the vote is Influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. 

He commanded fighters in the war against IS and headed a powerful militia that fought U.S. forces in Iraq before that, but his election campaign has focused on social issues and eliminating government corruption.


Iraqi Shiite cleric and leader Moqtada al-Sadr shows his ink-stained index finger inside a polling station in the central holy city of Najaf

Some Sunnis voting Saturday said they are hopeful this election will help Iraq move beyond sectarian politics and become more inclusive.

Marginalization of Iraq’s Sunnis under al-Maliki is seen as a factor that allowed IS to rise in power in Iraq. 

Al-Abadi has led a more cross-sectarian government marked by his ability to balance the interests of his two allies often at odds: the U.S. and Iran.

In total there are 329 parliament seats at stake, with nearly 7,000 candidates from dozens of political alliances.

The vote will be conducted electronically for the first time in an effort to reduce fraud and polling centers have been set up for many of the country’s 2 million people who remain displaced by the war against IS.

The results of Saturday’s election are expected within 48 hours of the vote, according to the independent body overseeing the election.

Government formation negotiations are expected to drag on for months after that as the dozens of political parties attempt to cobble together a political bloc large enough to hold a majority of seats in parliament.

The prime minister’s most powerful opponents are his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, and an alliance of candidates with close ties to the country’s powerful, mostly Shiite paramilitary forces. 


Kurdish are searched before voting in the Iraqi parliamentary elections at a polling station in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq,


Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, speaks during a campaign rally in Baghdad, Iraq


Campaign posters for parliamentary elections are displayed near destroyed buildings from fighting between Iraqi forces and the Islamic State group in Ramadi, Iraq, 70 miles west of Baghdad 


Abadi’s most powerful opponents are his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, and an alliance of candidates with close ties to the country’s powerful, mostly Shiite paramilitary forces.


An Iraqi couple arrives to cast their ballots in the parliamentary elections at a polling site in the shadow of the Nebi Yours shrine, destroyed by Islamic State militants during their three-year reign in Mosul

The alliance, called ‘Fatah’ – Arabic for ‘Conquest’ – is headed by Hadi al-Amiri, a former minister of transport who became a senior commander of paramilitary fighters in the fight against the IS group. 

Many of the candidates on his list were also paramilitary commanders before they cut their official ties with the force in order to seek office.

Jassim Mohsen, 58, who fought against IS with the paramilitary forces, said he’s casting his vote for the alliance because of their personal sacrifices.

‘I elected the Fatah list because they are the only ones who fought Daesh and gave blood,’ he said.

The candidates and voters in Iraq’s election


An Iraqi election registrar assists a voter in placing his ballot through a counting machine into a ballot box at a poll station in the capital Baghdad’s Karrada district 

VOTERS 

Nearly 24.5 million of Iraq’s roughly 38 million people are registered to vote. They are spread out across 18 provinces.

Voters can cast their ballots at 8,959 polling stations across the country, all of which are equipped for electronic voting.

According to Iraqi authorities, nearly 11 million biometric identity cards have been distributed to authenticate identities.

The 285,564 internal refugees eligible to vote can do so in one of 166 polling stations in 70 camps spread across eight provinces in the country.

Voters will select party lists and seats will be divided up according to the number of votes each list secures.

Polling for Iraq’s roughly one million security force personnel and the one million voters living abroad was held ahead of the main election day.

CANDIDATES

There are 6,990 candidates, including 2,011 women, set to run in the polls.

They will be competing for 329 seats, including nine reserved for minorities – Christians, Shabaks, Yazidis, Mandeans and Fayli Kurds – and 83 for women.

Candidates, selected based on their position in the party, will be elected to four-year terms in parliament.

There are 87 party lists in this year’s election.

MAIN LISTS OF PARTIES 

Victory Alliance –  led by incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

This year, for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the ranks of the executed leader’s oldest opponents, the Shiite Dawa Party, are divided.

Abadi, a key figure in the Dawa Party, has put together a list composed largely of civil society personalities that cross sectarian lines.


Iraqi Vice President and former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote at a polling station in Baghdad

Conquest Alliance – led by Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr organisation and a leader of the mostly Shiite Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary units, which played a key role in rolling back Islamic State (IS) group jihadists.

His candidates officially quit their military roles to run for office.

Rule of Law Alliance – led by former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.

This list relies principally on the Dawa Party, which Maliki heads.

But while it is popular with public servants hired under his mandate, the list suffers from criticisms aimed at Maliki because IS seized one-third of the country under his watch.

Marching Towards Reform – an unprecedented alliance between Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr and communists.

It includes mostly secular groups including the Iraqi Communist Party and Istiqama (Arabic for righteousness), a party of technocrats backed by Sadr, who suspended his Ahrar bloc and called on his 33 ministers not to run in the polls. 

The National Alliance – led by Vice President Iyad Allawi – a Shiite who presents himself as secular — and Sunni head of parliament Salim al-Juburi.

Weakened after three years of IS rule, Sunnis could be the biggest losers in this year’s elections.

Kurds  – head to polls to fill their northern autonomous region’s 46 seats, two of which are reserved for Christians.

The main Kurdish parties are the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK).

There are also three opposition parties: the main Jamaa Islamiya, the newly created New Generation movement, and Goran (Kurdish for change).

 Source: AFP 

 

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