Written by Staff Writer
In Iraq, the country’s 63-million voters Tuesday had the choice between parties representing Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds as they try to overcome years of political deadlock and conflict.
The country’s least turnout in decades has rekindled fears that the vote is not delivering a leadership change and could allow the country to slide back into conflict, analysts and experts say.
Turnout was said to be 52% by unofficial tallies released by local news sources. That figure is significantly lower than the pre-vote estimates of 69%.
By contrast, 96% turned out for the 2009 election.
By the latest count by CNN affiliate ARIS, Kurdistan was leading at 27 seats, followed by Moqtada al-Sadr’s bloc with 24 seats.
Sadr began 2018 on a high, signing an historic alliance with fellow cleric-turned-politician Asaad al-Hakim to form a political alliance. Hakim was a veteran of the 1990s uprising against Saddam Hussein and was briefly prime minister in 2000 and 2006.
Despite Sadr’s Iraq Movement finishing a close second to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s bloc, political analysts are worried the premier’s rivals are gaining strength, which could leave Abadi struggling to form a government.
All other blocs are close behind.
“Abadi’s had to take the lead from his enemies, whereas he is on the defensive. His rivals want to return to the past,” Ayham Kamel, analyst at Eurasia Group, told the ARIS.
Hakim, 82, reportedly recently suffered a stroke, but he is expected to retain his place in parliament.
But officials warned that the low turnout might not necessarily benefit his faction because it had failed to attract more followers.
“If the turnout in the past has been 99%, I think a lot of parties that didn’t get into the House of Representatives in 2008 would like to see a bit more turnout,” National Dialogue Conference Chairman Bayan Jabr told ARIS.