Iraqi election peaceful but turnout low

Monitors report irregularities but could not say whether outcome would be affected


Iraq’s election commission yesterday began counting ballots from the first nationwide election since the withdrawal of US forces at the end of 2011.

Monitors reported irregularities but could not say whether the outcome would be affected.

Voting was mainly peaceful in Saturday’s local elections in spite of a spate of bombings that killed 60 and the assassination of 14 candidates, the majority Sunnis, ahead of the vote.

Fourteen million Iraqis were eligible to vote in 12 of the country’s 18 provinces. Elections were postponed in the Sunni Anbar and Nineveh provinces, where there have been anti-government rallies in recent months, and in Tamim, where the oil city of Kirkuk is disputed by Arabs, ethnic Turks, and Kurds. The three-province Kurdish autonomous region has a separate election schedule.

More than 8,000 candidates, representing 50 electoral blocs, stood for 378 seats on provincial councils empowered to oversee local commercial transactions, allocate funds for projects and undertake limited security duties.

Turnout, a low 51 per cent, was the same as for the last provincial elections in 2009.

Since the first post-US war election of 2004, Iraqis have lost faith in the political process due to mounting corruption and with Shia fundamentalist prime minister Nuri al-Maliki keeping a tight hold on the levers of power.

In the 2010 national election, the largest number of seats were won by the secular Iraqiya bloc, but the coalition was prevented from forming a government by Shia fundamentalist factions. Mr Maliki, the incumbent, finally named a cabinet after 10 months of bickering and only after Iranian intervention.

He has been accused of trying to use the provincial poll to secure the re-election of his partners in next year’s assembly election and resume the premiership.