On May 12th, Iraqis will go to the polls to vote in the parliamentary elections. In Iraq's western Anbar Province, people are especially eager to participate and vote for change
Iraq’s parliamentary elections are set to being in two weeks time, as candidates and voters alike prepare to receive and cast votes. This will be the first election since 2014 and represents a new era after the defeat of the so-called Islamic State in December last year.
Across many towns and cities across Iraq’s western Anbar Province, locals are busily preparing to cast their votes. Billboards with candidates’ faces are being plastered on streets and roads, and many people are eager to choose new candidates or engage in the voting process after years under extremist rule. Parts of Anbar Province were known in many corners of Iraq for being hotbeds of extremism in recent years, first under Al Qaeda in Iraq and subsequently under ISIS. Fallujah, one of the major cities in Anbar, was the first Iraqi city to fall to ISIS in 2014.
In light of this, many locals are keen to dispel this image as one of extremism and violence. Furthermore, given the widespread destruction in numerous towns and cities, local people are simply waiting in earnest to vote for people who they believe will bring the greatest change. As one person from Fallujah stated, “We hope that they [the candidates] succeed and we’ll elect anyone as long as they benefit society and the people”.
In conjunction with this, Iraq’s High Electoral Commission (IHEC) have pursued steps to ensure that the elections run smoothly and fairly. A new electronic system will provide the outcome of the results within a matter of hours of the polls closing, an upgrade on recent years when it took weeks to announce a winner.
The IHEC has also confirmed that more than 120 candidates, many from the major political parties, have been fined for violating Iraqi electoral regulations, which include campaigning in restricted areas and using illicit campaign material.
Furthermore, the IHEC announced on Monday that approximately 600,000 names have been removed from voter lists, with many being dead or duplicated names, echoing the ‘ghost’ soldiers and bodyguards that were registered for years in Iraq in order for individuals to obtain additional salaries, but whose real identity did not exist.
Among the forerunners competing for the Prime Ministerial position include the current PM, Haider al-Abadi, and his Nasr Coalition, which contains a mixture of candidates from different sects and religions, and is competing in all of Iraq’s provinces, a first in Iraq’s recent electoral history.