Iraq Elections 2021: Why is it important? UN's role, regional impact-All you need to know!

The Iraq Parliamentary Elections, which were originally scheduled for next year, were called in early due to massive anti-government protests in Iraq's capital Baghdad in 2019 during which thousands of people were injured and over 600 died.

Created On: Oct 11, 2021 13:13 IST
Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi
Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi

Iraq Elections 2021: Iraq Parliamentary elections were held on October 10, 2021 after several challenges with the hope of bringing in key reforms. The initial turnout was reported to be around 41 percent, not nearly as low as election officials had earlier feared.

The Iraq Parliamentary Elections, which were originally scheduled for next year, were called in early due to massive anti-government protests in Iraq's capital Baghdad in 2019 during which thousands of people were injured and over 600 died.

Though the authorities gave in and called the early elections, the death toll and the heavy-handed security crackdown at that time prompted many who took part in the protests to later call for a boycott of the vote.

When will the results be announced?

The Iraq Parliamentary Election results are expected within 24 hours as per the independent body that oversees Iraq's election. The winner of the elections will get to choose the country’s next prime minister. 

However, the task of choosing a prime minister and forming the government is expected to take weeks or even months as none of the competing coalitions are likely to secure a clear majority. 

Why are the elections important?

The Iraq Elections 2021 are the sixth parliamentary elections held since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

The officials feared that the voter turnout will be lower than in 2018, when just 44% of those eligible voters had cast a ballot. Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi urged citizens to participate in the election, saying, "Get out and vote, and change your reality for the sake of Iraq and your future."

Iraq Elections 2021: Top 7 Things you need to know!

1. It was the first time Iraq used biometric cards for voters to ensure the integrity of the election. The cards will be disabled for 72 hours after each person votes, to avoid double voting.

2. It is also the first time a vote was held because of demands by Iraqi protesters on the streets. More than 250,000 security personnel were deployed to ensure security during voting. 

3. The election was held under a new election law that divides Iraq into smaller constituencies, which allowed more independent candidates — another demand of the young protestors.

4. At least 167 parties and around 3,449 candidates are contesting for the 329 seats in Iraq's parliament. The parties drawn from Iraq’s Shiite factions dominate the electoral landscape but they are divided. 

5. Shiite cleric and populist leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who was the biggest winner in the 2018 election, is expected to make gains this time but not enough to dominate the Shia camp.

6. The Fateh Alliance led by paramilitary leader Hadi al-Ameri that came second in 2018, is expected to retain its share of seats. The alliance is representing many Iran-backed Shia militias. 

7. While the Fateh Alliance includes some of the most hard-line pro-Iran factions including Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, Al-Sadr, who is also close to Iran publicly rejects its political influence.

UN's role in Iraq Elections

The United Nations played a major role in Iraq's elections, as hundreds of UN staff were staff deployed in every governorate across all of Iraq. This was the UN’s biggest electoral mission worldwide.

The UN Security Council had adopted a resolution earlier this year, authorizing an expanded team to monitor the elections. There were around 600 international observers in place, including 150 from the United Nations.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) along with Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) also reached out to Iraqi voters across the country to ensure that everyone has the tools they need to cast their ballots on 10 October. 

Why are people still boycotting vote?

Many people are skeptical on whether independent candidates from the protest movement stood a chance against well-entrenched parties and politicians, many of whom are backed by powerful armed militias.

There were also claims of vote-buying, intimidation and manipulation before the voting. 

Regional implications of Iraq's Elections 

The Iraq Parliamentary Elections 2021 will be watched by all in the region, as the new leadership will shape the direction of Iraq’s foreign policy for years to come. Current Iraq PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi has sought to portray Iraq as a mediator between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia by hosting several rounds of direct talks. 

The elections also come amid the gradual pullout of the United States from the middle east. It comes at a time when Iraq's economy is badly hit after years of conflict, corruption and the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of Iraqi people remain displaced after years of war against the Islamic State group.

Background 

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, mostly youth, took part in mass protests in October 2019 to express their anger against widespread corruption, unemployment and crumbling public services. The security forces responded to the protests by firing live ammunition and tear gas. Over 600 people were killed and thousands were injured within months of the protests. As per reports, there was also a string of kidnapping incidents and targeted assassinations.

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