Iraqis should have ‘confidence’ to vote as they please: UNAMI

An Iraqi woman’s finger is seen stained with ink at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Sulaimani, Iraq May 12, 2018. (Reuters photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The United Nations said on Friday Iraqis should have the “confidence” to vote as they please, two days before Iraq’s early elections.

Iraqi voters are to elect a new parliament on Sunday in the fifth such vote since a U.S.-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Members of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces, displaced persons and prisoners went to polling stations on Friday to cast their ballots for special voting.

This year nationals living abroad will not be voting.

“On Election Day, Iraqis should have the confidence to vote as they please, in an environment free of pressure, intimidation and threats,” UNAMI said in a tweet.

“We once again call on all parties to respect the freedom of any Iraqi to cast their ballot for candidates of their own choice,” it added.

A total of 329 seats are up for grabs in the election, which was moved forward from 2022 as a concession to youth-led pro-democracy protests that erupted in late 2019.

There are fears voter turnout could drop below the 44.5 percent figure registered in 2018.

More than 25 million citizens are eligible to vote. They are supposed to present a biometric card for what was conceived as a fully electronic voting process.

More than 3,240 candidates are in the running, including 950 women.

One quarter of seats are reserved for female candidates, and nine for minorities including Christians and Yazidis.

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