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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Iraq kicks off election campaign amidst public anger

Residents lash out as parties replace posters of fighters killed in battle 

A picture taken on April 14, 2018 in the multi-ethnic northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk shows campaign billboards for candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Marwan Ibrahim / AFP
A picture taken on April 14, 2018 in the multi-ethnic northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk shows campaign billboards for candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Marwan Ibrahim / AFP

Iraq's election campaign kicked off amid controversy following the replacement of posters of dead fighters with those of candidates.

Party aides and volunteers across the country on Saturday substituted the images of men killed in the battle against ISIS with those of nominees.

On Sunday morning angry residents took to social media to vent their frustrations.

“Those who do not respect our martyrs, do not respect life, the candidates in the elections are the dirtiest,” Ahmed Al Sami, a photographer from Baghdad wrote on Twitter.

Residents were referring to the thousands of government forces and allied militiamen killed in the fight against ISIS after the insurgents launched a sweeping offensive in 2014.

Others referred to some electoral candidates as "thieves" over allegations of corruption.

Voting on 12 May will mark Iraq’s fourth parliamentary and provincial assembly elections since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Laith Al Shommari called the replacement of the posters an "insult" to the memory of fighters "who have sacrificed their lives so that we can live in peace and security".

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"We should burn the electoral posters of all these cowards and opportunists," he said in reference to the candidates.

Over the past four years images of the men killed in battle have increasingly filled Iraq's cities and towns.

By employing social media, online videos and traditional billboards, candidates are promising citizens a better future. Many politicians have even resorted to Photoshop to enhance their public appeal, prompting derision from some.

Some candidates chose not to wait for Saturday’s official campaign to kick-off and have for weeks been greeting potential voters and conversing with locals.

“I have spoken to candidates during the past few weeks, they seem very friendly and have promised us a better future, let's see what will happen after the elections and if they will keep their promise," Ammar Hassan, a local shop owner in Baghdad said.

According to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), nearly 7,000 candidates have registered to run in May’s elections, with 329 parliamentary seats up for grabs.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, campaigning in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq kicked off with 503 candidates competing in the semi-autonomous region for seats in parliament.

The start of the campaign was delayed by one day to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the victims of Saddam Hussien's "Anfal" campaign that targeted Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s.

During Anfal, which translates as "Spoils of War" and estimated 182,000 people were killed and 4,000 villages, declared “prohibited areas” by Saddam’s government, were razed and bombed as part of a scorched-earth campaign.