Polls close in Iraq’s parliamentary election; official results expected Monday

A voter shows off his ink-stained finger after voting on October 10, 2021 (NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — Iraqis began voting in parliamentary elections on Sunday morning (October 10), casting ballots for the first time since massive, youth-led protests in 2019 demanded root-and-branch changes to politics and governance in the country.

With biometric identity cards in hand, voters gathered at schools, community centers, and other polling centers throughout the day to decide the make-up of the Council of Representatives for the next four years.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m. The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) is expected to announce official results on Monday.

Political leaders in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region were some of the first to cast their votes, with Iraqi President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr doing so in Baghdad.

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani voted in Erbil and KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani in Sulaimani.

New Generation Movement President Shaswar Abdulwahid voted in Sulaimani, saying that "the people can record a historical day today."

"Today is a very good time for people to express what is in their hearts in a civil way and a way that affects their lives,” he added.

The political leaders all urged voters to head to the polls.

"We all have to work to change our reality. Go out and vote for the sake of Iraq and your future,” Kadhimi said.

"We need a wise leadership that overcomes the interests of Iraq,” he added.

Driven by high unemployment, corruption, and lack of public services, protesters took to the streets in Baghdad and Iraq’s central and southern governorates in October 2019, remaining there for months and forcing Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi from office. Hundreds of protesters were killed and wounded by government security forces and militias.

Among other things, the demonstrators demanded early elections as a path to replacing Iraq’s governing elite, which the protesters condemned as a corrupt and self-dealing clique that has failed to use the country’s immense oil wealth to benefit the people.

On taking office in May 2020, current Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi promised to hold those early polls, which were originally scheduled for this past June but were pushed back to give officials more time to prepare.

The elections are also the first to be held under a reformed electoral law, whichcreated 83 new, multi-member constituenciesand employs a single, non-transferable voting system. A quota is in place to ensure that at least one woman is elected from each district.

A total of 3,249 candidates, out of which 951 are women, were approved by IHEC. They are competing for 320 seats.

Nine additional seats in specific governorates are set aside for ethnic and religious minorities.

In the weeks leading up to the election, observers have expressed concern about the prospect that many voters will end up staying home, reflecting widespread political disillusionment.

Some voters, including those supporting parties born out of the protest movement, have said that they will actively boycott the election.

The potential for organized electoral fraud and voter intimidation is also high and could further undermine trust in the results.

The elections were monitored by large observation delegations from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the European Union.

In the Kurdistan Region, voters will elect eleven members of parliament from three constituencies in Duhok governorate, fifteen members of parliament from four constituencies in Erbil governorate, and eighteen members of parliament from five constituencies in Sulaimani governorate.

The major Kurdish parties are also contesting seats in the disputed areas, including in Kirkuk, Saladin, Nineveh, and Diyala governorates.

(NRT Digital Media)


This story was updated at 6:00 p.m. EBL