Baghdad, October 11 (BNA) Iraq has witnessed a record drop in the voter turnout rate since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Preliminary results indicate widespread dissatisfaction and mistrust in the weekend’s vote on the new parliament.
The elections were held months ahead of schedule as a concession to a youth-led popular uprising against corruption and mismanagement. But the vote was marred by widespread indifference and a boycott by many of the same young activists who thronged the streets of Baghdad and Iraq’s southern provinces in late 2019, calling for change and new elections.
The Independent High Electoral Commission said on Monday that preliminary results showed that the turnout in Sunday’s elections amounted to 41 percent. That’s down from 44 percent in the 2018 election, which was an all-time low, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Tens of thousands demonstrated in late 2019 and early 2020, and security forces confronted them with live ammunition and tear gas. More than 600 people were killed and thousands injured in just a few months.
More specific results are expected later on Monday, but negotiations to choose a prime minister tasked with forming a government are expected to continue for weeks or even months.
It was the sixth election held since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many were skeptical that independent candidates from the protest movement stood a chance against established parties and politicians, many of whom were backed by those with influence. armed militias.
There was a clear reluctance among Iraqi youth – the country’s largest demographic group – to go out and vote. Many said the elections would only bring back the same faces and parties responsible for the corruption and mismanagement that have plagued Iraq for decades. The problems led to the collapse of the country’s infrastructure, increasing poverty, and high unemployment.
Under Iraq’s laws, the party that wins the most seats has the right to choose the country’s next prime minister, but none of the competing coalitions is likely to be able to secure a clear majority. This will require a protracted process that includes behind-the-scenes negotiations to select a consensual prime minister and agree on a new coalition government.
The current Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, has played a key role as a mediator in the region’s crises. Many in the region and beyond will be watching to see if he secures a second term.
The new parliament will also elect the next president of Iraq.