Iraq government says it has foiled attempts to rig forthcoming elections

Iraqis are set to head to the polls on October 10, after vote brought forward following 2019 protests

An image grab from a handout video released by the Iraqi Prime Minster's Office shows Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Kadhemi addressing the Iraqi people in a televised speech in the capital Baghdad, on April 9, 2020. Iraqi President nominated 53-year-old spy chief Kadhemi on April 9 as the country's third prime minister-designate this year, moments after his predecessor ended his bid to form a government, amid a budget crisis brought on by the collapse in world oil prices and the spread of the novel coronavirus. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /IRAQI PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi has said his government has thwarted several attempts to fix the parliamentary election being held next month.

“The security services carried out a pre-emptive operation in which they thwarted an attempt to rig the elections by putting pressure on a number of election commission employees, with the aim of mixing political cards and creating chaos,” Mr Al Kadhimi’s office said.

It said Iraqi security services arrested several suspects believed to be part of a group that attempted to interfere with the electoral process.

Local media reports said the intelligence services detained a former member of the electoral commission, Miqdad Al Sharifi, over alleged fraud in previous elections.

Iraq's general election was due to be held in May next year but has been brought forward to October 10 in response to the demands of a mass protest movement that broke out in October 2019.

Protesters called for changes to the country’s election law, which Parliament passed in late 2019.

The new law allows voters to elect individual politicians instead of choosing from party lists, and have each member of Parliament represent a specific electoral district, instead of groups of legislators representing entire provinces.

Iraq has a population of 40 million across 18 provinces. Turnout for the country’s last parliamentary election held in 2018 was 44.5 per cent, amid electoral fraud claims.

The one million Iraqi citizens living abroad will be excluded from voting.

Mr Al Kadhimi promised to address the demands of the protesters when he took office in May last year, after months of political turmoil.

The youth-led protest movement was triggered by anger over endemic corruption, high unemployment, foreign interference and poor public services.

Mr Al Kadhimi also promised to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of hundreds of protesters who took to the streets in Baghdad and many southern cities, although no one has been charged.

The populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, leader of the largest bloc in Parliament, last week reversed his decision that he and his supporters would not take part in the polls.

Mr Al Sadr's Sairoon bloc, part of a ruling coalition, is expected to be one of the frontrunners in the election.

A number of political leaders had written to Mr Al Sadr about drafting a "charter for reform" to rid Iraq of corruption and mismanagement.

The cleric, who has a widespread following, urged his supporters to go to the polls and vote in the election. A vote for his movement, he said, would mean an Iraq “liberated from foreign interference and corruption”.

"We will enter these elections with vigour and determination, in order to save Iraq from occupation and corruption," he said.

Mr Sadr, who commands a loyal following of millions of Iraqis, is one of the most powerful political leaders in Iraq and has grown his influence over state institutions in recent years.

His loyalists hold official posts with control of a large portion of the country's wealth and patronage networks.

Updated: September 03, 2021, 1:16 PM