Live Updates: Iraqis cast their votes in early general election

Live Updates: Iraqis cast their votes in early general election
Live Story
10 October, 2021

Iraqis head to the polls on Sunday for a general election that is expected to be boycotted by many voters who distrust official promises of reform.

The elections are being held early, in response to mass protests that erupted in 2019.

It's the first time a vote is taking place because of demands by Iraqi protesters on the streets.

The vote is also taking place under a new election law that divides Iraq into smaller constituencies - another demand of activists - and allows for more independent candidates.

The New Arab brings you the latest from Iraq today.

5:29 PM

Our coverage of live updates from Iraq's early elections concludes as polls close.

Thank you for joining us today. You can follow updates on voter turnout, results and more here.

5:25 PM
The New Arab Staff

Polls close

Polls have closed across Iraq Sunday evening in parliamentary elections that were held months ahead of schedule in response to a popular uprising against corruption and mismanagement.

Results are expected within the next 48 hours, according to the independent body that oversees Iraq’s election.

Negotiations to choose a prime minister tasked with forming a government are expected to drag on for months.

5:21 PM
The New Arab Staff

Iraqi security forces make dozens of arrests on election day

At least 77 people have been arrested for "violating" the electoral process on Sunday, according to the Iraqi Security Media Cell.

Arrests occurred in the governorates of Baghdad, Nineveh, Diyala, Kirkuk, Basra, Anbar, Salah al-Din, Erbil, Wasit and Diwaniyah, the media cell said in a tweet.

The alleged violators were referred to judicial committees by the Supreme Judicial Council as they prepare to take legal action against them.

من قبل مجلس القضاء الأعلى تمهيداًً لاتخاذ الإجراءات القانونية بحقهم.
ويأتي اجراء اللجنة الأمنية العليا للانتخابات هذا في إطار الحرص على نزاهة الانتخابات وضمان عدم السماح بتعكير الأجواء الانتخابية التي اتسمت بالشفافية والديمقراطية المنبثقة عن حرية الناخب العراقي في اختيار من يمثله

— خلية الإعلام الأمني🇮🇶 (@SecMedCell) October 10, 2021

“This falls within the framework of ensuring the integrity of the elections and ensuring that the electoral atmosphere was characterised by transparency and democracy," said the security cell.

4:52 PM
The New Arab Staff

Authorities announce election day a 'security success', with 190 recorded ‘violations’

The Iraqi security's plan to protect the elections was "a success", the Iraqi Security Media Cell said, adding that 190 violations were recorded in total across the country.

"The Supreme Security Committee for the elections carried out its duty, its plan was clear, it did not block roads, the security situation was good, security and intelligence coordination was high, and therefore the plan to secure the elections succeeded," the head of the Security Media Cell, Major General Saad Maan, told the Iraqi News Agency.

Security forces will remain deployed even after the polls close, Maan added.

4:20 PM
The New Arab Staff

Iraqi PM thanks voters, says government completed duty to hold 'fair elections'

“Praise be to God, we have completed our duty and promise to hold fair and safe elections … we have provided the capabilities to make them successful”, said the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in a tweet.

“I thank our honourable people, I thank all the voters, candidates, political forces, observers, workers in the Electoral Commission, the heroic security forces that provided security, the United Nations and our esteemed religious leadership”, he added.

"We completed our duty and promise to hold fair elections", said the PM [Getty]
4:07 PM
The New Arab Staff

Voter turnout below expected in Iraqi elections

Voting rates remain lower than expected in all cities across Iraq, sources from the Electoral Commission told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Percentages of participation rates were not specified by the sources, but are expected to be announced within the hour after polls close.

3:44 PM
The New Arab Staff

Voting will not be extended on Sunday

There will be no extension to voting on Sunday, the Iraqi Electoral Commission announced, adding that polls will close at 6 p.m. local time.

3:35 PM
The New Arab Staff

Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq says voting is ‘a national duty’

Voting in Iraq’s general elections on Sunday is a “national duty”, the Head of the Supreme Judicial Council Judge Faiq Zaidan said after casting his ballot.

“Judge Zaidan participated and voted in the elections for the Iraqi parliament”, said the council said in a statement received by the Iraqi News Agency

"Participation in voting and choosing the most suitable among the candidates is the duty of every Iraqi citizen who is keen on his country and aspires to deliver whoever he believes is most appropriate in the membership of the House of Representatives”, Zaidan said.

Participation in the elections is a duty, says Iraqi Judge Faiq Zaidan [Getty]
3:29 PM
The New Arab Staff

Iraqi PM urges citizens who have not yet voted to cast their ballots

Iraqi citizens yet to vote must head to the electoral centres quickly, the country’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has urged in a series of tweets.

“We passed the middle of the election day and the electoral process went smoothly. I thank all those who participated in the polls”, Al-Kadhimi tweeted.

“I call on the voters who have not yet voted to quickly go to the polling stations to choose their representatives”, Al-Kadhimi added.

2:47 PM
The New Arab Staff

EU says Iraq's election process was 'well prepared'

The election process in Iraq was well prepared, the Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission in Iraq Viola von Cramon has said.

“All we have to do now is wait and see how the Iraqi voters will react in these elections," Cramon said, according to the Iraqi News Agency.

"There is no perception about the outcomes of the elections, but all I can say is that the election day will pass peacefully and calmly, witnessing a wide turnout by Iraqi citizens," Cramon told press at a polling station in Baghdad.

Cramon addressed the press at a polling station in the Iraqi capital Baghdad [Getty]
2:32 PM
The New Arab Staff

Iraqi authorities make arrests over violations of electoral regulations

Iraqi authorities have arrested several people near polling stations for allegedly violating electoral regulations, the Iraqi News Agency reported.

The electoral process “is going very well and no major violations have occurred”, the undersecretary of the Iraqi National Security Service Hamid Al-Shatri told the news agency.

However, he noted that some violations were recorded involved citizens “who campaigned in an attempt to influence voters” outside polling stations.

1:31 PM
The New Arab Staff

Shopping centres, supermarkets closed in Kurdistan region

Kurdish authorities have closed malls and supermarkets on election day, the Governor of Ebril Omed Khoshnaw said in a press conference, adding that the move came in coordination with the Iraqi Electoral Commission.

Khoshnaw said that election sites were secured in the Kurdistan region, noting that "the security and safety of citizens is of utmost importance to us."

1:20 PM
The New Arab Staff

Thousands of displaced Iraqi-Kurds unable to vote

Majid Shankali, an official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) told The New Arab's Arabic-language site that voting in the Kurdistan region was mostly "going well", noting that there remained many who are unable to vote.

"There are still more than 30,000 displaced people who have not been able to vote because they cannot return to their hometowns," he said. "Therefore, thousands of those displaced may have faced security restrictions that impeded their movement and stopped them from voting."

The KDP is expected to win more seats than it did in the 2018 general elections.

12:14 PM
The New Arab Staff

'Technical problems' delaying voters

A number of technical problems have been reported in several Iraqi governorates, which have forced voters to return home without casting their vote, sources from the UN mission in Baghdad have confirmed to The New Arab's Arabic-language site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Some voters' fingerprints were not recognised by the voting machines at stations, an official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

Other problems were related to absence of data on certain voters, particularly among the elderly and women, the official added.

There were also reports that a number of polling stations opened late, delaying voters by over 30 minutes.

Frequent power and internet outages have also caused a delay in the voting process at several polling centres.

The official told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that one of the possible solutions will be to extend the polls by additional hours to make up for the time lost.

11:17 AM
The New Arab Staff

International election observers deployed 

Dozens of election observers have been deployed by the United Nations to monitor the vote.

There will be up to 600 international observers in place, including 150 from the UN.

Iraq is also for the first time introducing biometric cards for voters. To prevent abuse of electronic voter cards, they will be disabled for 72 hours after each person votes, to avoid double voting.

But despite all these measures, claims of vote buying, intimidation and manipulation have persisted.

10:45 AM
The New Arab Staff

Sadr casts vote

In the Shia holy city of Najaf, Iraq's influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has cast his ballot.

He then drove away in a white sedan without commenting.

Al-Sadr, a populist who has an immense following among Iraq's working class Shias, came on top in the 2018 elections, winning a majority of seats.

Iraq's populist cleric Moqtada Sadr prepares to vote at a polling station in Najaf [Getty]
10:44 AM
The New Arab Staff

PM Kadhimi among the first to vote

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi cast his ballot early in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.

"This is an opportunity for change," he said.

"Get out there and vote, change your reality, for Iraq and for your future," he urged.

10:40 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The main political parties

A new single-member constituency system for electing Iraq's 329 lawmakers is supposed to weaken the power of the traditional blocs largely based on religious, ethnic and clan affiliations.

But most analysts believe it will make the political process even less accountable.

The Fatah Alliance, the bloc representing many Iran-backed Shia militias, is expected to retain its share of seats.

The list of populist cleric Moqtada Sadr, already the largest in the outgoing parliament, is expected to make gains but not enough to dominate the Shia camp.

"The election will likely result in another fragmented parliament, followed by opaque, corrupt horse-trading among factions to form the next government," said researchers Bilal Wahab and Calvin Wilder in an analysis published by the Washington Institute.

"Few expect this election to amount to more than a game of musical chairs, and the (October 2019 protest) movement's core demands - curbing systemic corruption, creating jobs and holding armed groups accountable - are unlikely to be met."


10:31 AM
The New Arab Staff

Airports closed amid tight security

Airports have been closed until dawn on Monday across Iraq, where despite the government's declaration of victory over the Islamic State group in late 2017, jihadist sleeper cells continue to mount attacks.

Security was tight in the capital, with voters searched twice at the entrance to polling stations.

The spokesman for the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces, Major General Yahya Rasoul, said in a televised interview that security forces refrain from imposing a curfew and will avoid blocking roads between governorates to enable the free movement of voters whose electoral centres may be located in another governorate.

Polls will remain open until 6:00 pm, with preliminary results expected within 24 hours of closing.

10:21 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Polls open early on Sunday

Polls opened at 7:00am (0400 GMT) but few voters turned up early at one polling station at a school in central Baghdad.

"I have come to vote to change the country for the better, and to change the current leaders who are incompetent," said Jimand Khalil, 37, who was one of the first to cast her vote. "They made a lot of promises to us but didn't bring us anything." 

Security has been tight in the capital, with voters searched twice at entrances to polling stations.

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The New Arab Staff
The New Arab Staff & Agencies