HomeNewsIraqis vote in parliamentary polls; low turnout reflects loss of faith

Iraqis vote in parliamentary polls; low turnout reflects loss of faith

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliamentary polls on Sunday drew one of the smallest turnouts for years, electoral officials indicated, with the low participation suggesting dwindling trust in political leaders and the democratic system brought in by the 2003 US-led invasion.
The established, Shia Islamist-dominated ruling elite whose powerful parties have armed wings is expected to sweep the vote, with the movement led by populist Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who opposes foreign interference and whose rivals are Iran-allied Shia groups, seen emerging as parliament’s biggest faction.
Such a result would not dramatically alter the balance of power in Iraq or the wider West Asia, say Iraqi officials, foreign diplomats and analysts, but for Iraqis it could mean that a former insurgency leader and conservative Islamist could increase his sway over the government.
Two electoral commission officials said nationwide turnout was 19% by midday. Total turnout was 44.5% in the last election in 2018. Polling booths closed at 6pm (08.30pm IST) Initial results are expected on Monday but final turnout figures could be announced late on Sunday. However, Iraqi polls are often followed by protracted talks over a president, a PM and a cabinet.
It appeared to be the lowest turnout in any election since 2003, according to electoral commission counts at polling stations. In Baghdad’s Sadr City, a polling station set up in a girls’ school saw a slow but steady trickle of voters.
Election volunteer Hamid Majid, 24, said he had voted for his old school teacher, a candidate for the Sadrists. “She educated many of us in the area so all the young people are voting for her. It’s the time for the Sadrist Movement,” he said.
The election was held several months early under a new law designed to help independent candidates — a response to widespread anti-government protests two years ago.
“Jockeying and government formation will look the same — the same parties will come to either share power and not provide the population with basic services and jobs and on top of that will continue to silence dissent. It’s concerning,” said Renad Mansour of the Iraq Initiative at Chatham House think tank.
School teacher Abdul Ameer Hassan al-Saadi said he boycotted the election, the first polls since mass protests over corruption, unemployment and poor services erupted in 2019. “My 17-year-old son got killed by a tear gas canister fired by police,” said al-Saadi. “I will not vote for killers and corrupt politicians.”

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