Voting began across Iraq on Saturday morning for the country’s first parliamentary election since it declared victory over the Islamic State group in December. Nearly 7,000 candidates – including 2,600 women – are contesting the elections for 329 seats.
Results of the elections will be declared within 48 hours after voting closes, as Iraq is using electronic voting machines for the first time to reduce fraud and speed up counting.
Voting began at 7 am local time (9.30 am Indian time) and will close at 6 pm (8.30 pm Indian time). The election authorities expect a high turnout because of a relative lull in insurgent attacks in recent days, AP reported.
Security has been tightened across the country in the days before the election. Curfews are in place for the election day in major cities including Baghdad and Mosul, while travel between provinces has been restricted.
The election is seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s tenure. His predecessor Nouri al-Maliki and the Fatah alliance, led by Hadi al-Amiri, are other major contenders. An alliance needs 165 seats to win a majority.
Matters that have dominated the discourse ahead of elections are corruption, the influence of Iran and the future of United States forces still in Iraq.