Soldiers, prisoners and displaced people vote ahead of Iraq elections

Soldiers, prisoners and internally displaced people voted on Friday in special early polls in Iraq as the country prepared for Sunday’s general election where turnout will show how much confidence voters have in a still young democratic system.

Many Iraqis say they won’t vote, after seeing established parties they don’t trust sweep through successive elections and make little improvement in their lives.

Groups from the Shiite majority should remain in charge.

Iraq is more secure than it has been in years, and violent sectarianism is less prevalent than ever since Iraq defeated ISIS in 2017 with the help of an international military coalition.

But rampant corruption and mismanagement have left many people in this country of about 40 million people without work and lacking health care, education and electricity.

Friday’s early poll included voting among the population of more than one million people who are still displaced by the battle against ISIS.

Some said they couldn’t or didn’t want to vote.

“I got married in the IDP camp where I live, and neither I nor my husband will vote,” said a 45-year-old woman named Umm Amir. She spoke to Reuters by phone and declined to reveal her exact location.

“The politicians visited us before the last election (in 2018) and promised to help us get back to our cities. It never materialized. We were forgotten.”

2019 events

In 2019, mass anti-government protests swept through Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite south, toppled a government and forced the current government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to hold these elections six months earlier.

The government has also introduced a new electoral law which it says will bring more independent voices in parliament and can help reform. He tried to encourage more participation.

The reality, according to many Iraqis, diplomats and Western analysts, is that the larger and more established parties will win the ballot again.

Dozens of activists who oppose these parties have been threatened and killed since the 2019 protests, prompting many reformists not to participate in the vote. Iraqi officials blame armed groups with ties to Iran for the killings, a charge these groups deny.

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