According to preliminary results, 41 percent of Iraq’s voters participated in Monday’s election. This is a record low for the post-Saddam Hussein period. It signals widespread distrust in the country’s leaders, and the need to vote for a new government.
As a concession to the youth-led uprising against corruption, and mismanagement, the weekend’s election took place months earlier than expected. However, the vote was marred in widespread apathy by many of those same young activists who marched through Baghdad’s southern provinces in late 2019 calling for radical reforms and new elections.
Monday’s preliminary results showed that 41 percent of voters turned out for Sunday’s election, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission. This is a decrease of 44 percent from the 2018 elections which was an all-time low.
Tens of thousands protested against the government in late 2019/early 2020. Security forces responded with live ammunition and tear gas. In just a few short months, more than 600 people were killed and many others were injured.
Although the authorities called early elections and accepted their offer, many protestors later called for a boycott.
Later Monday was expected to bring more definitive results. Groups drawn from Iraq’s major Shiite Muslim factions were expected to win, as it has been since 2003. Moqtada al-Sadr (an influential Shiite cleric) was expected to win more seats. He was the main winner of the 2018 elections. However, no party was expected to win a clear majority and negotiations to select a prime minister to form a government were likely to drag out for weeks, if not months.
According to expectations, the Fatah Alliance, headed by Hadi al-Ameri (paramilitary leader), would be second. This alliance is made up of parties that are affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces. It is a group of pro-Iran Shiite militias which rose to prominence during war against Sunni extremist Islamic State. It includes the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a militia that is Iran-backed.
Al-Sadr is a black-turbaned nationalist leader who is also close to Iran but publicly rejects its political influence.
This election was the sixth since Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Many doubted that the independent candidates of the protest movement would be able to defeat established parties and politicians, many backed by powerful militias.
Young Iraqis, the largest group in the country, were reluctant to vote. Many people believed that the system was immune to reforms, and that the election would only return the same faces and parties that have been responsible for corruption and mismanagement throughout Iraq’s history. These problems have led to a country with deteriorating infrastructure, increasing poverty, and rising unemployment.
The laws of Iraq allow the party with the most seats to elect the next prime minister. However, it is unlikely that any of the other coalitions will be able to secure a clear majority. This will take a long process that involves backroom negotiations in order to choose a consensus prime minster and agree on a new coalition.
Mustafa al-Kadhimi is the current Iraqi prime minister. He has been a crucial mediator in regional crises, especially between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. Many people in the region and elsewhere will be keeping an eye on him to see if he is elected to a second term.
The next president of Iraq will be elected by the new parliament.