BAGHDAD — The low turnout in Iraq’s parliamentary elections was due to four major factors, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Tuesday, although he voiced hope turnout would rise by the time the results are announced in a few days.
“Our country suffered from power cuts, suicide bombings and destruction during the campaign period and this hampered participation,” al-Abadi said.
Elections on May 12 were a feat of logistical logistics on an unprecedented scale, with security forces redeploying some 40,000 troops across the country to protect polling stations and help distribute ballots.
The country’s election commission said 96 percent of the country’s registered voters turned out to cast ballots — an all-time low for a national ballot in the modern era. Turnout for the last national election in 2014 was 87 percent.
Those who did show up to vote were nearly 90 percent women, election officials said.
This election was in some ways more important than the last one as Iraq is preparing to hold the country’s first parliamentary polls since the fall of the Islamic State in December 2017, which ended the war that has devastated the country’s areas controlled by the militant group.
The upcoming elections follow a controversial decision by President Donald Trump in May to pull U.S. troops out of Syria in what he said was part of a victory over IS. With Americans abandoning part of Iraq’s east, much of the country’s new electoral campaign was focused on maintaining Iraq’s autonomy.
But security concerns for Iraqi voters were exacerbated by two suicide bombings that struck two polling stations in eastern Diyala province, killing a soldier and wounding 11 others, said Ghassan Jabar, a spokesman for the local election commission.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but the attacks were likely carried out by IS, according to Iraqi officials.
Iraq’s elections are usually viewed as having tight connections to security, but it is uncertain how the country’s next parliament will be formed.
The elections will be crucial in determining the path for Iraq and Iraq’s neighbors to create a post-IS democratic future and the trajectory of the peace efforts in Syria, where the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah is a key player in the civil war that has gripped the country since 2011.
In Iraq, Daesh’s self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate collapsed in December 2017 and the extremist group has been driven from most of the cities it occupied at the start of the crisis but the militants have caused considerable devastation in territory that is not under their control.