Tensions High, Turnout Low in Parliamentary Election; 16 Killed in Iraq

Early reports from the Iraqi High Electoral Commission reveal a low turnout for Saturday’s parliamentary elections. With over 90 percent of the votes counted, analysts reported that the participation rate for the 22 million eligible Iraqis was below 50 percent. Results are expected on Monday. Fortunately, no major attacks were reported.

Various reasons for the disappointing turnout were given. Among them was apathy from the Sunni minority, who were also threatened by Islamic State militants if they participated. Security measures, such as a transportation ban, kept some voters from the polls; Baghdad itself saw the lowest participation. Among displaced Iraqis, only about 10 percent registered to vote, but some of those registered reported difficulties. A number of voters complained of poorly implemented biometric systems. Perhaps, the most obvious problem was disillusionment among voters, which may have also contributed to a low turnout by voters living in the United States.

Surprisingly, turnout in the Kurdish region was higher than in other parts of Iraq, even though the Iraqi military attacked Kurdistan after a non-binding independence referendum last September and reclaimed contested territory.

The Baghdad-appointed governor of Kirkuk province, one of the contested areas, announced there will be a manual recount of the votes after an “illogical” outcome. Governor Rakan al-Jubouri also announced a curfew to prevent sectarian violence between the Arab, Kurdish, and Turkmen communities. These and other groups, including Assyrian Christians, are all vying for more representation among Kirkuk’s 13 seats. Some Turkmen ignored the curfew and staged a protest. Also, Shi’ite militiamen staged their own demonstration at an electoral commission office.

Journalists in Sinjar say they were prevented from reaching polling stations to investigate reports of militia forces interfering with the voting process. However, some of the problems may have arisen from identification issues.

The gravest political report arose in Sulaimaniya province, Kurdistan, where gunfire was reported after the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan claimed victory. Members of the P.U.K. and those in the Gorran party exchanged shots at the Gorran H.Q., but no casualties were reported. Three other parties and Gorran are accusing the P.U.K. of electoral fraud. However, Gorran supporters allegedly took possession of ballot boxes. Separately, P.U.K. forces were also accused of attacking journalists.

At least 16 were killed, and 19 were wounded:

Four militiamen and two policemen were killed, and three more militiamen were wounded, during an attack in Rashad.

North of Tikrit in Mes’Hag, four militiamen were killed and three were wounded when a bomb exploded as they were making their rounds.

Near Kirkuk in Khan, a bomb killed three people. Two of them were voters and the third was an observer.

Mortars killed one policeman and wounded five more in Mukhisa.

Three people were injured by mortar fire in Islah.

Near Mosul, militiamen are accused of injuring two members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (K.D.P.)

P.U.K. forces were accused of injuring two journalists from Kurdistan TV in Sulaimaniya.

Militia forces are also accused of shooting and wounding a civilian trying to reach the polls in Jalawla.

Two militants were killed in Baquba.

Author: Margaret Griffis

Margaret Griffis is a journalist from Miami Beach, Florida and has been covering Iraqi casualties for Antiwar.com since 2006.