2021-10-10 10:15:36 Iraqis vote for new parliament amid tight security | Gallery News
Iraqis vote for new parliament amid tight security | Gallery News
Iraqis are voting in a general election that many have said they will boycott because they have lost faith in the democratic system ushered in by the US-led invasion of 2003.
The vote on Sunday was originally scheduled for next year, but it was moved up due to a popular uprising in the capital Baghdad and southern provinces in late 2019.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest widespread corruption, inadequate services, and rising unemployment. Security forces responded with lethal force, using live ammunition and tear gas. Within a few months, over 600 people were killed and thousands more were injured.
Despite the fact that the elections were called early, the death toll and the harsh crackdown prompted many young activists and demonstrators who took part in the protests to later call for a boycott of the polls.
A string of kidnappings and targeted assassinations that killed over 35 people has further discouraged many from participating.
A total of 3,420 candidates will compete for 329 seats in the parliamentary elections, which will be the fifth since Saddam Hussein’s fall following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The protection of the vote is the responsibility of over 250,000 security personnel across the country. Soldiers, police, and anti-terrorism forces were stationed outside polling stations, some of which were surrounded by barbed wire. Before entering the voting booth, voters were patted down and searched.
The election is the first held without a curfew since Saddam’s fall, reflecting the country’s significantly improved security situation following the defeat of ISIL (ISIS) in 2017. Previous elections were marred by violence and deadly bomb attacks.
In another first, the election on Sunday will be held under a new election law that divides Iraq into smaller constituencies – another demand of activists who participated in the 2019 protests – and allows for more independent candidates.
A resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council earlier this year authorized an expanded team to monitor the elections. Up to 600 international observers, including 150 from the United Nations, will be stationed.
Iraq is also introducing biometric voting cards for the first time. To avoid double voting, electronic voter cards will be disabled for 72 hours after each vote to prevent abuse.
Despite these safeguards, allegations of vote-buying, intimidation, and manipulation have persisted.
According to the head of Iraq’s electoral commission, preliminary election results will be announced within 24 hours of polls closing.