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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Iraq elections 2018: Live updates

Citizens voted in the first parliamentary elections since Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi declared victory over ISIS 

A voter in the Sadr City district of Baghdad proudly holds up an ink-stained finger, the mark of casting his vote in the first Iraqi elections since the defeat of ISIS, on May 12, 2018. Wissm Al Okili / Reuters
A voter in the Sadr City district of Baghdad proudly holds up an ink-stained finger, the mark of casting his vote in the first Iraqi elections since the defeat of ISIS, on May 12, 2018. Wissm Al Okili / Reuters

Polls have closed, and that's all from our live update for now. Read our updated story from Saturday's polls, and we'll be back with more news as we get it.

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22:45 - UK congratulates Iraqi people on a 'successful election'

Britain's minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, said it has been "an historic day" for Iraq.

"I congratulate the Iraqi people on another successful election," he said in a statement.

“We look forward to the announcement soon of the full and final result and will work with all political groups to encourage formation of an effective, inclusive government that addresses the needs and hopes of all Iraqi citizens."

Mr Burt added that Britain and Iraq enjoy "a strong bilateral relationship, share great hopes for the future and a commitment to work together in our common interest.

"We look forward to working with the next government to help deliver stability, security and prosperity for all Iraqis.”

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22:00 - Kirkuk minorities claim voting violations

"Kurdish areas are yet to experience any complications – it's only in the Arabic and Turkmen districts that systems are breaking down," the head of the Turkmen Front told The National.

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19:42 - Results won't be out for some time

Votes are being counted electronically for the first time but won't be released for up to 48 hours, notes Iraq analyst Kirk H Sowell.

Negotiations to choose the prime minister tasked with forming the government are expected to drag on for months.

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19:11 - Voting polls close

Polls have closed across Iraq on Saturday evening in the first national election since the country declared victory over ISIS. The vote - the fourth since the 2003 United States-led toppling of Saddam Hussein - was marked by reports of low turnout and irregularities.

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18:50 - First Iraq election since ISIS defeat comes to an end

The polls are expected to close in 10 minutes.

Roughly 24.5 million voters faced a fragmented political landscape five months after ISIS was ousted, with the dominant Shiites split, the Kurds in disarray and Sunnis sidelined.

A low turnout, voting irregularities and an absence of incidents at the polling stations have marked today's voting.

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17:58 - Memories of Baghdad bombs revived on election day

Residents of Baghdad have recalled how some of the deadliest moments in the city's history are shaping their decisions on election day.

“We want changes, my relative was one of the victims of the Karrada bombings, we’ve been oppressed, I voted for the person that deserves to be in power,” said Rami, a resident in Karrada, the central Baghdad district where an ISIS militant detonated a suicide bomb in 2016 that killed more than 340 people.

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17:42 - Election mementos

Iraqis are pulling down or taking parts of advertising boards put up by politicians running in today's elections, correspondent Samya Kullab reports.

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17:21 - Christians caught in the middle?

As the city's two largest groups are locked in contention, its smallest - Christians - suspect their eight candidates, guaranteed one seat under a quota system, are being courted by bigger, rival political forces in Baghdad and Erbil.

They fear being caught in the middle of yet more upheaval.

"There's no Christian candidate who can afford to run without the support of a much larger side," 28-year-old Narsin Emmanuel, an unemployed university graduate, told Reuters.

"I hope that whichever Christian candidate wins a seat, he'll benefit personally from it – he won't be able to do anything for us because he'll be beholden to his backers".

Samir Abram, a member of one Christian party, agreed.

"We're a small and weak minority. I'm afraid that we'll get stuck between those two sides vying for power".

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17:09 - No security incidents reported at polling stations with two hours to go

There is yet to be a major incident reported at a polling stations, with just two hours left until they close at 18:00 local time.

If it remains this way for the next two hours, it would represent a significant victory for the thousands of security personnel and police forces who have sought to ensure that the vote passes without incident.

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16:41 - Some voters feel safer than they did in the last elections

In the mostly Arab Hay Wasti neighborhood of Kirkuk, voter presence is low, less than expected according to the local election monitor.

Sultana Mohammed, 63, was wheeled out of the polling station with her family in tow - an inked finger proof that the arduous trip had not been in vain. "Even if I didn't have my wheelchair I would have come, I would have crawled," she said.

"This election is better than the last, there's better security."

She said her vote went to the Arab Alliance in Kirkuk, "Because they are among us [in Kirkuk] and know our needs."

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16:29 - Iraqis old and young getting to the polls

Former Iraqi ambassador to the US, Lukman Failly, has shared images of Iraqis who are frail or disabled making the effort to get to the polls in the name of Iraqi democracy.

"People voting with their hearts and soul," he wrote. "Democracy can only thrive with such an energy."

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15:50 - Claims of violations in Kirkuk

Arshad Al Salehi, the head of the Turkmen Front told The National that "there has been several violations in the Kurdish areas of Kirkuk. So far there are no observers monitoring the vote in the Kurdish populated areas, people are free to go in and vote".

Mr Al Salehi said the voting process in Turkmen and Arab areas of Kirkuk has been delayed by four hours due to the breakdown of the electronic voting machines.

"This has caused many issues for us," he said, adding that "voting in the Kurdish areas are yet to experience any complications - it's only in the Arabic and Turkmen districts that systems are breaking down".

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15:20 - Iraq's first electronic vote

In total there are 329 parliament seats at stake, with up to 7,000 candidates from dozens of political alliances.

The vote is being conducted electronically for the first time in an effort to reduce fraud, and polling centres have been set up for many of the country's two million people who remain displaced by the war against ISIS.

The results of Saturday's election are expected within 48 hours of the vote, according to the independent body overseeing the election.

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15:02 - Turnout mixed in Iraqi cities

In the western city of Ramadi, there has been a good turnout, according to The National's correspondent in Baghdad. People are voting there, despite some schools having issues with their voting system.

In the southern city of Basra, however, voter turnout has been low. In the northern city of Mosul, the turnout has been fairly good.

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14:51 - Senior cleric calls for greater voter turnout

Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric spoke out on the issue of voter participation Saturday afternoon, encouraging Iraqis to vote "to prevent the arrival of a corrupt parliament".

"The lack of participation will give the opportunity for others to reach parliament and they will be very far from the aspirations of the people," said Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi Al Karbalai, the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on local Iraqi television from Karbala.

Sistani has repeatedly encouraged Iraqis to vote in Saturday's elections and vote into power a new political class to combat corruption.

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14:38 - Reports of electoral violations by Sadr faction

"A lot of electoral violations by Saairun in many #Iraqi governorates, including promoting in and close to poll stations, threatening observers from other lists, and in some places using weapons," wrote Mohammed Shummary, an adviser to the former president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, an Iraqi Shia Islamist political party.

He was referring to the Saairun coalition, led by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr. The reports remain unconfirmed by authorities overseeing the vote.

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14:21 - Iraqi airspace reopens

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi on Saturday ordered the reopening of the nation's airspace and resumption of air traffic on Saturday as the early hours of the vote passed largely without incident, state television reported.

The shutdown had come into effect at midnight on Friday as a security measure ahead of the voting which started on Saturday morning.

Iraqi broadcaster Al Sumaria reported six deaths south of Kirkuk in a shooting carried out by unidentified gunmen. The attack remains unconfirmed by Iraqi officials.

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14:05 - Why Iraqis vote

The majority feeling among Iraqis when asked why they decide to cast their ballots is change. "We vote to make change," says Mosul Eye, the activist who reported from the northern Iraqi city while it was under ISIS rule.

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13:41 - Unrest reported in Najaf

Clashes have been reported in the Shiite city of Najaf between supporters of the Saairun coalition, led by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, and Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi's Victory Alliance.

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13:28 - Curfew lifted in some areas to allow for voting

Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi has announced that a curfew will be partially lifted from specific locations, to allow people to vote as early as possible.

The curfew will remain in locations where there is a security threat, as designated by security forces in coordination with the election commission

The curfew on streets was lifted in Kirkuk at 12pm local time.

Some are saying the street ban was lifted because voter turnout was lower than expected, but that was not an official line being made by authorities, says correspondent Samya Kullab.

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13:17 - First election attack reported

There have been unconfirmed reports by local media that security officials were killed on Saturday in an attack near the northern city of Kirkuk.

"The armed gunmen attacked checkpoints of the federal police near the village of Saadouniyah, 35 kilometres south-west of Kirkuk, killing four members of the federal police, two of Hashed Al Shaabi and wounding two others," Al Sumaria TV reported.

No affiliation was given to the gunmen but ISIS had threatened to attack the vote before it began.

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13:10 - Visuals from the empty streets of Baghdad where there is a car curfew to ensure greater security.

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12:55 - Turnout in Kirkuk higher in Kindi

In the majority Turkmen neighbourhood of Kindi, voter turnout appears to be higher. Lines to individual polling rooms are long, and many eager to cast their vote crowd around the entrance to register.

Ahmed Safari, 21, is among them waiting under the hot sun. His vote is for the Turkmen Front.

"We are voting for our rights as Turkmen," he said. "We want a seat at the table and our voice to be heard".

"We want Turkmen to play a key role in the next government. We want our representatives to be in Baghdad and fight for our rights, give us more jobs and make sure we are heard".

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12:35 - Ayad Allawi, Iraqi vice president and leader of the Wataniya coalition, casts his vote in Baghdad

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12:15 - Iraqi President Fuad Masum casts his vote

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11:50 - Turkmen dominant in Kirkuk's Kindi district

Correspondent Samya Kullab has moved to another Kirkuk neighbourhood to offer an alternative perspective from the northern Iraqi city. This neighbourhood is mainly a mix of Arab and Turkmen citizens.

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11:45 - The office of Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi shows him being searched by security personnel like any other Iraqi citizen voting in today's election.

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11:36 - PUK voters are out in force in Kirkuk

Ali Rasheed, 73, is also voting for the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) in the northern city.

"It is our right to vote, and I'm not voting for an individual, I'm voting for all of Kurdistan," he said.

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11:30 - Voting obstruction in Kirkuk

The Turkmen Front in Kirkuk is reporting that "there is deliberate obstruction of a number of polling stations" in the northern city. It did not elaborate on the parties involved in the incident.

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11:14 - Abadi casts his vote

Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, the frontrunner in this election, has cast his vote at a school in Karrada, the Baghdad district where ISIS committed its deadliest ever single attack: the July 2016 suicide bombing of a market filled with shoppers for Ramadan that left more than 340 people dead.

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11:10 - First security incident reported

Diyala Governorate's security council says Iraqi forces have killed two suicide fighters who were attempting to attack a voting centre north of Baquba, which is located east of Baghdad, Iraqi broadcaster Al Sumaria reported.

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11:00 - Kurds on path to losing influence in vote?

Political forces in the Kurdish community - often seen as potential kingmakers - are in disarray after a September vote for independence backfired.

The Kurds look set to lose some of their clout on the national stage after Baghdad unleashed a battery of sanctions and seized back disputed oil-rich regions.

Putting on a brave face, the prime minister of autonomous Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, insisted the political process would not succeed "without Kurdish participation".

"No party can form the next government without alliances," he said in televised comments after voting.

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10:50 - A busy morning in Fallujah

Voter turnout in the predominantly Sunni western city of Fallujah, one of ISIS's former bastions, appears to be higher than other Iraqi cities in first hours of voting, according to observers.

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10:42 - Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, casts his vote

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10:40 - Head of Kurdistan Region's Security Council, Masrour Barzani casts his vote in Erbil

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1038 - Correspondent Samya Kullab is at polling stations in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk

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10:32 - Shiite cleric Ammar Al Hakim, who is head of the Hikma coalition, casts his vote in Baghdad.

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10:29 - Men and women are arriving to vote in Kirkuk, many in traditional Kurdish dress

Some even waved flags belonging to political parties, despite regulations. Most interviewed here say they will vote PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan).

Jamil Mahmoud, 51, said he voted for PUK. "I came to vote for our nation. We have a duty to preserve our Kurdish nation, especially here in Kirkuk."

His vote was for PUK. "They have made many sacrifices for Kurds."

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10:15 - Security tightened for first post-ISIS vote

With support from the United States-led coalition and Iran, Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi oversaw a gruelling war against ISIS, the extremist group that captured half a dozen towns and cities across Iraq, and declared victory over the group late last year.

Since then, Baghdad has experienced a relative lull in insurgent-style attacks, but in the lead up to Saturday's vote Iraqi security forces have imposed tight security measures, including a curfew.

The militant group still poses a threat to the country and it has pledged to attack the election. The first hours of the vote have passed without incident.

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10:00 - Salim Al Jubouri, the head of the Iraqi parliament, casts his vote in Baghdad.

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09:56 - A calm start to proceedings

Our correspondent in Baghdad says the three polling stations he has visited have been relatively quiet so far.

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09:51 - Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani holds a press conference in Erbil after casting his vote

“Today is an important and historical day. It is a democratic process as the people of Iraq and Kurdistan cast their ballots," he said.

"We hope the people of Kurdistan head to the polls as their votes are very important for the Kurdistan region and Iraq".

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09:43 - Voting has started across the country, with political leaders and citizens alike taking to the polls amid heightened security

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09:38 - Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, now vice-president and head of the State of Law list, casts his vote in Baghdad

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09:32 - Ameera Odeesh Gorya says she will vote for Aswan Kildani

He is the brother of Rayyan Kildani, leader of the Babylon Brigade, a Christian militia group that took up arms against ISIS after it overran large areas of Iraqi territory in mid-2014.

"I am voting so that new leaders will come and change our political situation, I’m against sectarianism, we are all brothers," the 60-year-old Christian said from Baghdad.

"We want someone who will give us security and stability".

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09:20 - Voters start to appear in Baghdad

Mohammed Farhan Abood, 35, a business owner, is the first to cast his vote in Al Awsea primary school near Tahrir Square in the Iraqi capital.

“I’m here to cast my vote to ensure that Iraq has a strong government and a prosperous future. I’m voting for Hadi Al Amiri,” Mr Abood said.

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09:05 - In Kirkuk, Rastgo Hassib, 18, proudly shows his purple finger after voting

"I came to vote to change the bad situation for the Kurds. There are new political parties now and we can't expect anything new from the old political parties, the KDP and the PUK".

Asked why he voted for the New Generation coalition over other Kurdish entities this election, he said: "They are for the youth, they are new faces and they are more likely to make a change. I don't believe in the nationalism of the old parties".

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08:40 - A technological test for Iraq poll organisers

Correspondent Samya Kullab notes this Iraqi election is different from those past because specialised voting machines provided by South Korea are being used to counter fraud. Ballots are scanned by machine and info is electronically stored.

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08:35 - Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani casts his vote in the northern city of Erbil

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08:32 - Voting under way in northern city of Kirkuk

Correspondent Samya Kullab, in the mostly Kurdish neighborhood of Garmian, says voting has started. About a dozen men and women are in separate lines awaiting security checks. No one has made it inside yet.

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08:30 - A look at Iraq's top five candidates

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08:15 - State of play: Iraq election facts and figures

Iraq political map from 2014

The National
The National

At stake in this election:

  • 329 seats in the Council of Representatives of Iraq
  • Total candidates: 7,187
  • 25 per cent must be held for women
  • 9 are reserved for minority groups

Population and Voter Registration:

  • Population: 35,273,293 (2014)
  • Registered voters: 23,109,138

The main lists:

  • 1. Nasr (Led by Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi)
  • 2. Fateh (Led by paramilitary leader Hadi Al Ameri)
  • 3. State of Law (Led by former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki)
  • 4. Sairun (new nationalist bloc backed by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr and Iraqi communists)
  • 5. Wataniya (Secular coalition led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi)
  • 6. Tadhamon (ٍnewly-formed Sunni bloc headed by vice president Osama Al Nujaifi)
  • 8. Hikma (newly-formed coalition led by Shiite cleric Ammar Al Hakim)
  • 9. Al Hal (Sunni party led by Jamal Al-Karboli)
  • 10. Three main Kurdish parties and several smaller ones. All have historically presented a largely united front in Baghdad.
  • Current parliament makeup:
  • State of Law coalition 95
  • Sadrist Movement 34
  • Citizens' Coalition (Muwatin) 31
  • Muttahidoon bloc 28
  • Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) 25
  • Al Wataniya 21
  • Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) 21
  • Others 19
  • Al Arabiya Coalition 10
  • Gorran 9
  • Minority groups 8
  • National Reform Trend 6
  • Fadhila 6
  • Diyala is Our Identity 5
  • Islamic Union of Kurdistan 4
  • Civil Democratic Alliance 3
  • Islamic Group in Kurdistan 3

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May 12, 0800 (07:00 Iraqi time) - Iraqis vote in first election since the end of war with ISIS

Hello and welcome to The National's live updates for the 2018 Iraqi parliamentary elections.

The country is voting for the first time since Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi declared victory over ISIS. About 7,000 candidates are contesting for 329 seats in parliament.

Mr Abadi is running for re-election after taking office in September 2014, shortly after much of the Iraqi military collapsed in the face of an ISIS advance that saw a third of the country fall into the hands of the extremists.

However, despite declarations of victory, ISIS sleeper cells remain active. On Sunday, the group claimed the assassination of a candidate in Qayyarah, about 70 kilometres west of its former bastion, Mosul. Gunmen shot dead Faruq Zarzur Al Jubouri, a 45-year-old candidate loyal to Vice President Ayad Allawi.

ISIS has vowed to target polling stations across the country on election day.

Voting began on Thursday for Iraq's military and diaspora. Almost a million security officers are eligible to vote in up to 500 polling centres across Iraq, while 130 centres have been set up in 21 countries to host more than 800,000 voters, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).

“Polling centres have opened today in Jordan, Egypt, Iran and the UAE,” Sawsan Ahmed, the IHEC’s spokeswomen, told The National on Thursday.

In the Emirates, despite a low turnout, voters were enthusiastic.

"I am voting for my country’s future not for a specific candidate or party," said Dr Shaker Al Nouri, a professor at Al Jazeera University. "In this year’s elections, economic hardship surpasses sectarian lines and is at the forefront of voters' concerns."

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Need to know more? Here is further coverage from The National:

Iraq readies for first election since end of ISIS war

Iraqi election highlights Basra corruption

Iraq's displaced forgotten in elections

Divided Kurds face losses in Iraq's election

Iraqi comedy show raises army of youth voters ahead of elections

Iraqi reporter who threw his shoes at George Bush launches election bid

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