Iraq elections: 24 million register to vote in October poll

More than a million Iraqis living abroad will be unable to vote, electoral commission says

A member of Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group holds an Iraqi flag and travels in a vehicle as he takes part in a parade ahead of the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in Baghdad, Iraq May 6, 2021. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
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More than 24 million Iraqis have registered to vote in coming elections, the country’s electoral commission said on Sunday.

Iraq is to hold a general election on October 10, something which was a central demand of anti-government protesters who staged mass demonstrations in 2019.

They called on the government to bring forward elections that were to be held in May 2022.

“Nominations for the elections have now closed and voter registration now includes more than 24 million voters,” the commission said.

The number includes more than 980,000 people born after 2001. They will be voting for the first time.

Iraq has a population of nearly 40 million people who are spread out across 18 provinces.

Iraqis living abroad will be excluded from voting, the commission said. This means that more than one million citizens will not be able to take part.

The commission has been struggling to update its voter data and issue biometric cards to meet the October deadline.

“As the elections are coming up, the commission’s employees are working continuously throughout the day to accomplish the tasks assigned to them,” the commission said.

Federal elections in May 2018 were mired in allegations of voter fraud and corruption, with turnout falling to an historic low.

Parliament must dissolve itself for the October vote to be held.

The calls for an early poll began during the 2019 protests, when hundreds of people were killed and thousands more were injured by the security forces and gunmen with suspected ties to militia groups.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in Baghdad and the southern provinces to voice their anger and frustration at the government's inability to fight corruption and provide them with security and stability.

Demonstrators have been calling for an end to endemic corruption among a political class that is largely seen as having squandered Iraq’s resources through greed and mismanagement.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi earlier vowed to meet protesters' demands by holding early elections in June 6 this year, nearly 12 months ahead of schedule, when he took office last May.

These were later postponed to October 10.

The delay was due to technical requirements, Mr Al Kadhimi said in January in a proposal submitted to the Cabinet to ensure a transparent electoral process.