Voting starts in Iraq in first poll since Daesh defeat

Baghdad (UNA-OIC) - Iraqis vote Saturday in the first parliamentary election since the country declared victory over ISIS (Daesh) last year, with the economy, jobs, security and corruption high on the list of voters' concerns as the country seeks to rebuild after years of conflict.

Nearly 7,000 candidates are contesting 329 seats in the parliament, of which a quarter must go to women. Iraqi Vice President and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was the first to vote in the country's landmark parliamentary elections at a polling center in Baghdad's Green Zone on Saturday. After voting, Maliki warned of potentially disastrous outcomes in the event of the results being rigged through electronic devices. Maliki is the main opponent of the current Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi. President of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jubouri also issued a similar warning after casting his vote. "We are monitoring the voting process and vote counting closely," he said, stressing the importance of the Electoral Commission's role.

Under the power-sharing system brought in after the 2003 US-led invasion, the position of prime minister is reserved for a Shiite. Incumbent Haider al-Abadi, who's been in power since 2014, is hoping to win back the top job. But the country's Shiite bloc has splintered into five major coalitions, making it hard to predict which will come out on top. Whoever wins will still need to reach out to other blocs, including Sunni and Kurdish coalitions, to form a governing alliance. The next prime minister will then face the daunting task of stabilizing a nation scarred by ISIS' rise and still plagued by sectarian division at a critical juncture in its history

Abadi, who heads the Nasr, or Victory coalition, is widely credited in Iraq with helping to reconstruct the Iraqi Army and defeat ISIS. He will hope to capitalize on that support even as many voters lament a lack of improvement in their daily lives. Ahead of the election, Abadi has sought to broaden his coalition to bring in significant Sunni figures and avoid overt sectarianism -- and his is the only coalition running in all 18 of Iraq's provinces. The balloting is expected to be a referendum on Abadi's tenure and his pledge to be more inclusive of Iraq's Sunni minority.

Source: International Islamic News Agency