Palestine News Network
Iraq .. 41% participation rate in the parliamentary elections, and Baghdad is the least popular
1 hour ago Iraq in the world
Baghdad/PNN- The Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq announced, on Monday, that the initial participation rate in the parliamentary elections that took place yesterday, Sunday, amounted to 41%.
This is an indication of waning confidence in political leaders, but the number of participants was not nearly as low as the election officials had feared earlier.
The elections are expected to sweep the ruling elite, which is dominated by Shiites and has the most powerful parties with armed wings.
There are also expectations that the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc will obtain the largest number of parliament seats, according to what "Reuters" reported.
Al-Sadr opposes all forms of foreign interference, and pro-Iranian groups are his biggest rival.
Iraqi officials, foreign diplomats and analysts say that such an outcome will not significantly change the balance of power in Iraq or the region in general, but it may mean to the Iraqis that Sadr will increase his influence in the next government.
In the previous elections in 2018, the total turnout was 44.5%.
The Electoral Commission said early in the day that the lowest participation rate was in Baghdad, at between 31% and 34%.
Two officials from the Electoral Commission indicated to "Reuters" that the turnout of eligible voters nationwide reached 19% by midday, and the participation rates were weak in the polling stations visited by Reuters in different regions of the country.
The official in the commission, Mohamed Mustafa, said that the participation rate increased in the last hours of the voting.
Preliminary results are expected to be announced today.
Iraqi elections are usually followed by protracted negotiations lasting months over the president, prime minister and cabinet, according to the democratic system brought about by the US-led invasion in 2003.
This appears to be the lowest turnout in any election since 2003, according to Electoral Commission statistics at polling stations visited by Reuters across the country.
In Baghdad's Sadr City, a polling station in a girls' school witnessed a slow but steady influx of voters.
The volunteer in the elections, Hamid Majid, 24, said that he voted for his old teacher in the school, the candidate for the Sadrist movement.
He added: “She taught many of us in the area, so all young people vote for her. It is the right time for the Sadrist movement. People support them.”
These elections come several months ahead of schedule and are held according to a new law that was enacted to help independent candidates, and came as a result of massive anti-government protests two years ago.
“The competition, (method) and government formation will apparently remain the same, the same parties will come to share power without providing the population with basic services and jobs, and above all will continue to silence the opposition,” said Renad Mansour of the Chatham House Iraq Initiative. It is very worrying.”
The United States, Arab Gulf states, and Israel on one side and Iran on the other are competing for influence in Iraq, which is a gateway through which Tehran has been able to provide support to armed proxy groups in Syria and Lebanon.
The US invasion in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein and brought to power the Shiite majority and the Kurds, who had been oppressed under Saddam.
But that unleashed years of brutal sectarian violence from which Iraq is still recovering, including the Islamic State's seizure of a third of the country between 2014 and 2017.
Secondary school teacher Abdul-Amir Hassan al-Saadi said he boycotted the elections, the first parliamentary vote since the 2019 protests and subsequent campaigns.
The demonstrations were brutally suppressed and around 600 people were killed over several months.
"I lost my son Hussein at the age of 17 after he was killed by a tear gas canister fired by the police during the Baghdad protests," added Al-Saadi, whose home is near a polling station in Baghdad's Shiite-majority Karrada district.
He went on to say: "I will not vote for murderers and corrupt politicians because the wound inside us, me and his mother, is still bleeding because of his loss."
Viola von Kramon, head of the European Union's election observation mission, said the relatively low turnout meant a lot.
"This is a clear signal, of course, and one can only hope that the politicians and the political elite in Iraq will hear it," she told reporters.
But some Iraqis have expressed their eagerness to participate in the parliamentary elections, the fifth vote in the country since 2003, and they hope it will bring change.
Abu Abdullah said in the northern city of Kirkuk that he came an hour before polling stations opened in preparation for casting his vote.
He added, "I have come since early morning to be the first voter to participate in an event that I hope will bring change... We expect the situation to improve dramatically."
And Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi is not a candidate in the elections, but negotiations after the vote may result in him taking office for a second term. There is no party that supports Al-Kazemi, who is considered close to the West.
The Kurds have two main parties that govern the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, and Sunnis are contesting these elections with two main blocs.
Iraq is safer than it was years ago, and sectarian violence has subsided since the defeat of the hardline Islamic State group in 2017 with the help of an international military coalition and Iran.
But rampant corruption and mismanagement deprive many people in the country of about 40 million people of jobs, health care, education and electricity.
Baghdad-based political analyst Ahmed Younis said, "Many Iraqis believe that the post-Saddam Hussein regime, which is based on sectarian quotas, is a failure, and that the widespread corruption and the growing influence of armed factions that operate without accountability have added to their disappointment and frustration.“.
Younis added that "the boycott of the elections has become an inevitable and inevitable matter, and this is what happened in today's elections."