world
Sunday Oct 10 2021
By
Reuters

Low turnout as Iraqis vote in parliamentary election

By
Reuters
A woman scans her finger to verify her identity before voting at a polling station during the parliamentary election, in Kerbala, Iraq, October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen.
A woman scans her finger to verify her identity before voting at a polling station during the parliamentary election, in Kerbala, Iraq, October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen. 
  • Iraq holds early vote in response to protests.
  • Many say they will boycott election.
  • Iraq safer than in years but grappling with unemployment and corruption.


Iraq on Sunday held a parliamentary election that drew one of the smallest turnouts on record, electoral officials indicated, a result that suggested dwindling trust in political leaders and the democratic system brought in by the 2003 US-led invasion.

The established ruling elite whose most powerful parties have armed wings is expected to sweep the vote, with the movement led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who opposes all foreign interference and whose main rivals are Iran-allied groups, seen emerging as parliament's biggest faction.

Such a result would not dramatically alter the balance of power in Iraq or the wider Middle East, 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.

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. The people are with them,” Majid said.

Two electoral commission officials told Reuters that the nationwide turnout of eligible voters was 19% by midday. Turnout was 44.5% in the last election in 2018. Polling stations closed at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT).

It appeared to be the lowest turnout in any election since 2003, according to election commission counts at polling stations that Reuters visited across the country.

The election is being held several months early under a new law designed to help independent candidates - a response to mass anti-government protests two years ago.

The chief Iraq election observer of the European Union, Viola von Cramon, said the relatively low turnout means a lot.

"This is a clear, of course, a political signal and one can only hope that it will be heard by the politicians and by the political elite of Iraq," she told reporters.