Polls close across Iraq in early parliamentary election
The voting was marked by a boycott by many of the young activists who thronged the streets in late 2019, and reports of low turnout. Tens of thousands of people took part in the mass protests and were met by security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas. More than 600 people were killed and thousands injured within just a few months.
Although authorities gave in and called the early elections, the death toll and the heavy-handed crackdown - as well as a string of targeted assassinations - prompted many who took part in the protests to later call for a boycott of the polls.
Results are expected within the next 48 hours, according to the independent body that oversees Iraq’s election. Negotiations to choose a prime minister tasked with forming a government are expected to drag on for months.
Voting began early Sunday in a contest that was the sixth held since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the sectarian-based power-sharing political system it produced.
A total of 3,449 candidates are vying for 329 seats in the parliamentary elections. Apathy is widespread amid deep skepticism that independent candidates stand a chance against established parties and politicians, many of them backed by powerful armed militias.
More than 250,000 security personnel across the country were tasked with protecting the vote.
Soldiers, police and anti-terrorism forces fanned out and deployed outside polling stations, some of which were ringed by barbed wire. Voters were patted down and searched.
Iraq’s President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi urged Iraqis to vote in large numbers.
"Get out and vote, and change your reality for the sake of Iraq and your future," said al-Kadhimi, repeating the phrase, "get out" three times after casting his ballot at a school in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, home to foreign embassies and government offices.
The 2018 elections saw just 44% of eligible voters cast their ballots, a record low, and the results were widely contested.