Iraq votes in first elections since IS defeat

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Media captionMany Iraqis have lost faith in their politicians

Iraqis are voting in the first parliamentary elections since the government declared victory over so-called Islamic State (IS) last year.

Around 7,000 candidates from rival coalition alliances are vying for seats in the 329-member assembly.

Iraq is still struggling to rebuild itself after four years of war against IS, a BBC correspondent says.

Iraq votes in first elections since IS defeat
Iraq votes in first elections since IS defeat

He says whoever wins will need to keep Iraq’s fragile unity in the face of sectarian and separatist tensions.

Polls across the country opened at 04:00 GMT and are due to close at 15:00 GMT.

Speaking after casting his vote, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on “all Iraqis” to take part in the election.

“Today Iraq is powerful and unified after defeating terrorism, and this is a huge achievement for all Iraqis,” he said.

Image copyrightPrime Minister’s Media Office
Image caption Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi cast his vote in the capital Baghdad

Iraqis can vote for rival lists of candidates. Most are predominantly Shia or Sunni, though the Kurds have their own lists.

The Shia-led government has won praise for the fight against IS militants, and security has vastly improved across the country.

But many Iraqis are disillusioned by widespread government corruption and a weak economy, the BBC’s Martin Patience reports.

There is also frustration at a perceived lack of change. One Baghdad resident said that he “regretted” voting in the 2014 elections because “all the promises are lies”.

Reuters reported that voter turnout in several polling stations in the capital appeared low, although the government partially lifted a curfew to encourage voting.

Security around voting centres has been tight. At least three people were killed in an attack near a polling station in the northern province of Kirkuk, according to local media.

Image copyrightAFP
Image caption People turned out to vote in the city of Mosul, which was severely damaged in the fight against IS

The vote also comes just days after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Some Iraqis fear their country could once again become a casualty in any struggle between America and Iran, our correspondent adds.

Iraq elections: Could Iran be the real winner?

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