ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Polling stations across Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have opened after four weeks of campaigning as thousands of candidates compete in the first election in the country since the defeat of the Islamic State (IS).
Voting began at 7 am local time, and polling stations will remain open until 6 pm.
More than 24 million Iraqis are eligible to vote in the elections, the fourth since the fall of Saddam Hussein and his dictatorial regime in 2003. Three million people are eligible to vote in the Kurdistan Region.
Election results will be announced in the upcoming days, unlike previous elections which would take up to a few weeks before results were made public. It is also the first time Iraq is using an electronic system to vote.
According to the Constitution of Iraq, a new government must be formed within 90 days of the election results being known.
There are 320 political parties, coalitions, and electoral entities running in these elections, with nearly 7000 candidates vying for a seat in Iraq’s Parliament.
With the voting peacefully underway, Iraqis are defying threats by IS to target polling stations as the country attempts to rebuild after a devastating three-year-long war against the jihadist group.
The US Embassy in Baghdad on Friday warned its citizens of possible terrorist attacks, but Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi offered assurances that Iraqi security forces would be vigilant and ensure the safety of voters.
Political stability is also a top concern for the 2018 Iraqi elections as rivals in Baghdad have received mixed support from the international community, and the Kurdistan Region’s parties face a watershed moment in attempting to unite their voices in the country’s national Parliament.
Late last year, the Kurdistan Region held a referendum on independence which was met with harsh opposition in Baghdad and led to a breakdown of dialogue between the federal government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. There are 46 seats in the Iraqi Parliament reserved for elected officials from the Kurdistan Region, with some 500 candidates participating in these elections.