Early results show record low turnout in Iraq election

Voters look for their names on a list during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Najaf, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. Iraq closed its airspace and land border crossings on Sunday as voters headed to the polls to elect a parliament that many hope will deliver much needed reforms after decades of conflict and mismanagement. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq saw a record low turnout in this weekend’s parliamentary elections, the independent body that oversees the election said Monday. The preliminary results signal widespread dissatisfaction and distrust in the vote.

The election was held months ahead of schedule as a concession to a youth-led popular uprising against corruption and mismanagement. But the vote was marred by widespread apathy and a boycott by many of the same young activists who thronged the streets of Baghdad and Iraq’s southern provinces in late 2019, calling for change and new elections.

The Independent High Electoral Commission on Monday said preliminary results show turnout from Sunday’s election was 41 percent. That’s down from 44 percent in the 2018 elections, which was an all-time low.

Tens of thousands of people protested in late 2019 and early 2020, and were met by security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas. More than 600 people were killed and thousands injured within just a few months.

Although authorities gave in and called the early elections, the death toll and the heavy-handed crackdown – as well as a string of targeted assassinations – prompted many protesters to later call for a boycott of the vote.

More definitive results were expected later Monday, but negotiations to choose a prime minister tasked with forming a government are expected to drag on for weeks or even months.

The election was the sixth held since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many were skeptical that independent candidates from the protest movement stood a chance against well-entrenched parties and politicians, many of them backed by powerful armed militias.