Record low turnout in first Iraq elections since Islamic State defeat

There were 329 parliament seats at stake, with nearly 7,000 candidates from dozens of political alliances.

Iraq’s constitution allows lawmakers more than three months after the ratification of the election results to form a government.

Iraq saw a record low turnout on Saturday in its first elections since the collapse of the Islamic State group, pointing to widespread dissatisfaction with the direction of the country under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and presaging a long period of deal-making as politicians squabble over posts in a new government.
There were no bombings at any polling stations _ a first since the US invaded Iraq in 2003.

Al-Abadi called it a “historic day, spent peacefully by all Iraqis.” Riyadh al-Badran, a member on Iraq’s national elections commission, said turnout was 44 percent. No election since 2003 saw turnout below 60 percent. More than ten million Iraqis voted. With no clear front-runner, it could take months for a new Parliament to form a government name a prime minister seen as suitable to the country’s rival Shiite political currents, who have adopted diverging positions on Iran.

The low turnout could open the door to Sunni-led and Kurdish electoral lists to play an outsized role in the negotiations, as well. Iraq’s population is predominantly Shiite. Results are expected within 48 hours according to the electoral commission. Despite presiding over Iraq’s war on the Islamic State group, al-Abadi was opposed by other Shiite leaders who eclipsed him in charisma and popularity. In his first term, Al-Abadi courted both US and Iranian support in the war on IS.
His chief rivals were former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Hadi al-Amiri, who heads the powerful, Iran-backed Badr Organization militia, which participated in the war on IS. Al-Abadi was also opposed by the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a staunch nationalist who has railed against US and Iranian influence in Iraqi politics. Iraq is beset by chronic corruption, a sputtering economy, and failing public services. “The candidates have not done anything for the people,” said Ramadan Mohsen, 50, who said he cast a blank vote in Baghdad’s distressed Sadr City slums. Millions of others decided to abstain altogether.