- Title: Low turnout expected in Iraq's election as polls close
- Date: 10th October 2021
- Summary: BASRA, IRAQ (OCTOBER 10, 2021) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF VOTERS IN POLLING STATIONS VARIOUS OF ELECTION STAFF SEATED IN EMPTY VOTING CENTRE VOTER IN POLLING STATION (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) 18-YEAR-OLD IRAQI FROM BASRA, HAIDER NAHED, SAYING "Some people tell you it (the results) is set. Others tell you there is fraud. Others tell you your votes will be thrown away. There is no candidate worth electing, especially the old ones. They were nominated before, and they have been here for 20 years with no competitors. We have not benefited from anything." VARIOUS OF SECURITY FORCES NEAR POLLING STATIONS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) IRAQI FROM BASRA, HUSSEIN SABEH, 20, SAYING: "I did not vote to be honest, it is not worth it. There is nothing that would benefit me or others. I see youth that have degrees with no jobs. Before the elections, they all came to them. After the elections, who knows?" VARIOUS OF CITIZENS VOTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF BASRA DEPARTMENT OF IRAQ'S INDEPENDENT HIGH ELECTORAL COMMISSION, HAIDER JABAR, SITTING AT DESK (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE BASRA DEPARTMENT OF IRAQ'S INDEPENDENT HIGH ELECTORAL COMMISSION, HAIDER JABAR, SAYING: "The percentage of participation in the province of Basra was by midday, according to the survey office, and until 12 p.m., was between 18 and 20 per cent of the number of voters in the province of Basra." BAGHDAD, IRAQ (OCTOBER 10, 2021) (REUTERS) VOTERS IN POLLING STATION ELECTION STAFF WAITING IN VOTING CENTRE VOTER TALKING TO ELECTION STAFF CHIEF OBSERVER OF EUROPEAN UNION OBSERVATION MISSION TO IRAQ, VIOLA VON CRAMON, WALKING INTO POLLING STATION VON CRAMON IN POLLING STATION (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF OBSERVER OF EUROPEAN UNION OBSERVATION MISSION TO IRAQ, VIOLA VON CRAMON, SAYING: "The relatively low turnout of these elections says a lot. But it is not up to me now to make a final judgement and assessment on this, 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, that's all I could say at that moment." VARIOUS OF CRAMON AND VOTERS IN POLLING STATION (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF OBSERVER OF EUROPEAN UNION OBSERVATION MISSION TO IRAQ, VIOLA VON CRAMON, SAYING: "I mean things go the way they are supposed to go and I think that many more people hope for a different choice and what I have heard is that the political change was not reflected in the list of candidates and parties." VOTING CENTRE VOTER VOTING
- Embargoed: 24th October 2021 15:33
- Keywords: Boycott EU Observation Mission Election Electoral commission Iraq Low turnout News conference
- Location: BAGHDAD AND BASRA, IRAQ
- City: BAGHDAD AND BASRA, IRAQ
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Middle East,Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA001EYKSQBR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Iraqis were voting in small numbers on Sunday (October 10) in a parliamentary election that many said they would boycott, having lost faith in the democratic system brought in by the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
"There is no candidate worth electing, especially the old ones", said an 18-year-old Iraqi from the city of Basra, who chose not to vote.
In the southern province of Basra, preliminary results at midday showed voter turnout between 18 percent and 20 percent, according to a local official of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission deputy, Haider Jabar.
The chief Iraq election observer of the European Union, Viola von Cramon, said the relatively low turnout means a lot.
"This is 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.
The established, Shi'ite Islamist-dominated ruling elite whose most powerful parties have armed wings is expected to sweep the vote, with the movement led by populist Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who opposes all foreign interference and whose main rivals are Iran-allied Shi'ite 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.
Two electoral commission officials told Reuters that the nationwide turnout of eligible voters was 19 percent by midday. Turnout was 44.5 percent in the last election in 2018. Polls close at 6 p.m. local time.
An election official told Reuters turnout was low by mid-afternoon, without elaborating. Turnout was low across the country, Reuters witnesses said.
In several parts of Baghdad, mosque loudspeakers were used to urge Iraqis to vote.
In Baghdad's Sadr City, a polling station set up in a girls' school saw a slow but steady trickle of voters.
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.
Nonetheless, some Iraqis were keen to vote in what is Iraq's fifth parliamentary vote since 2003 - and are hopeful of change.
At least 167 parties and more than 3,200 candidates are competing for parliament's 329 seats, according to the election commission. Iraqi elections are often followed by protracted talks over a president, a prime minister, and a cabinet.
Protesters' demands included the removal of a ruling elite most Iraqis view as corrupt and keeping the country in disrepair. The demonstrations were brutally suppressed and some 600 people were killed over several months.
Iraq is safer than it has been for years and violent sectarianism is less present since Iraq vanquished the Sunni ultra-hardliners Islamic State in 2017 with the help of an international military coalition and Iran.
But endemic corruption and mismanagement have meant many of Iraq's 40 million people are without work and lack healthcare, education, and electricity.
(Production: Maher Nazeh, Mohammed Aty, Charlotte Bruneau, Nadeen Ebrahim)
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