Polling stations closed in Iraq; vote counting begins

A combined picture of the polling stations and people cast votes in Kurdistan Region, October 10, 2021.

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Polling stations closed in Iraq’s general election on Sunday after Iraqis voted to elect a new parliament.

Polling places opened at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday and closed at 06:00 p.m. after the Iraqi electoral commission said it would not extend the period.

Offices of the electoral commission placed voter turnout at 43% in Erbil, 38% in Sulaimani, 52.2% in Duhok, 39.4% in Kirkuk, 41% in Basra, 44% in Diyala,  45% in Wasit, and 36% in Najaf.

As of mid-day, the independent high electoral commission (IHEC) placed the voter turnout at 19 percent.

The IHEC employees will start counting votes following the closure of the polling stations. The IHEC said earlier on Sunday that results would be announced within 24 hours.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in a tweet that the government had successfully fulfilled its promise and duty in securing fair elections.

The election was held several months early under a new law designed to help independent candidates – a response to mass anti-government protests two years ago.

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

As many as 24,029,927 people were eligible to vote in 8,273 polling stations in Iraqi provinces and the Kurdistan Region. Voters had to present a biometric card for what was conceived as a fully electronic voting process.

As many as 3,226 candidates were in the running, including nearly 950 women.

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

A new single-member constituency system is supposed to boost independents and reduce traditional political blocs, largely centered on religious, ethnic and clan affiliations.

Nearly 900 U.N. and EU observers and around 46,800 internal spectators monitored the election process.

*This story was updated at 11:01 p.m. EBL time

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