Iraq’s Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has reportedly won the most seats in the Iraqi parliament as he came first in quite a few Iraqi provinces, including Baghdad in the elections held on Sunday.
Known as the kingmaker in Iraqi politics since the US invasion, Al-Sadr increased the number of his movement’s seats from 54 in 2018 to 73 seats in the 329-member parliament, according to initial counts of the votes from Baghdad and several provinces.
Initial turnout in the elections remained at a relatively low level of 41 percent. The lowest turnout throughout the country was in Baghdad with only between 31 and 34 percent of voters going to the ballot boxes.
During a live victory speech on state TV, Sadr gave messages against foreign interference in Iraq, saying, “We welcome all embassies that do not interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs,” and invited his supporters to celebrate on the streets “without weapons.”
Former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is expected to have the next largest win among the Shiite parties, according to the partial results.
The initial counts verified by local officials suggested that pro-reform candidates who emerged from the 2019 protests also gained several seats in the parliament.
Iran-backed parties with links to several militia organisations accused of killing around 600 protesters, have experienced significant loss in votes compared to 2018, according to the initial results.
This was Iraq’s first elections under new electoral law and the fifth after Saddam Hussein regime was toppled in 2003.
The vote was held months ahead of the scheduled elections in response to the demands of Iraqis that flocked to the streets in 2019 en masse protesting against the government in relation to poverty and corruption.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, 63 Kurdish MPs won seats, 23 of whom were female candidates as Kurds could choose from among the two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and other opposition parties.
According to the initial results in Iraqi Kurdistan, KDP won 32 seats, PUK won 15 seats, New Generation Movement (NGM) won 9 seats and Kurdistan Islamic Union won 4 seats.
Initial counts announced by the elections commission suggested that KDP won in Erbil (Hewlêr) and had ten seats whilst NGM and PUK, followed the KDP with two seats and one seat, respectively.
In Suleymaniyah (Silêmanî), PUK had the most votes enabling it to have eight seats, NGM and KDP following it with five and two seats, respectively.
The highest number of female parliamentaries was in Suleymaniyah, Erbil and Duhok (Dihok) with seven, six and four women elected, respectively.
PUK has not recognised the election results in Iraqi Kurdistan, saying there is a number of incidents that count as enough evidence to conclude that there was fraud.
“Four members of the PUK earned enough minimum votes in Erbil, but the results have been altered with illegal interference. As ballot boxes were transferred with armed forces, our obervators were taken out and forced to stay away. In four election zones some votes of the Alliance members and other candidates were burned down,” said Majid Ahmed, a member of PUK’s Erbil office, in a press conference on Monday.
Voters in Sinjar, the Yazidi-Kurdish majority region in Iraqi Kurdistan, also found it hard to vote with technical problems occurring one after another, according to ANHA.
Many Sinjar locals were not able to vote on grounds that they were not registered voters. 83 thousands went to the ballet boxes in Sinjar, according to Roj News, but at the end of the day 13-thousand people were announced to have voted. The fate of the votes of around 70 thousand Sinjar locals are unknown.
Yazidi Freedom and Democracy Party (PADE) opposed the elections in Sinjar and applied to the Elections Commission of Ninewa for the cancellation of the elections in Sinjar.
“In the camps where the Yazidis live, they created problems to thwart votes. Therefore the Yazidis could not vote and those who voted were forced to vote for the KDP,” PADE said in their petition to Ninewa officials.
Its capital Mosul being Iraq’s third largest city after Baghdad and Basrah, Ninewa Governorate hosts diverse ethnicities including Arabs, Kurds, Shabaks, Assyrians, Turkmens and Armenians.
The Autonomous Administration of Sinjar also objected to the initial results of the elections in Sinjar.
Criticising the dominance of extreme security measures with military forces, police and the peshmergas surrounding the polling centres in camps, just like throughout Iraq, the Autonomous Administration said: “Iraq, in general, and Yazidis, were not ready for the elections that would change nothing.”
“Many people went to the ballot boxes, but could not find their names registered. Many migrants faced trouble to go to another village to vote, especially in the south.”
PUK’s female candidate Sozan Husên Mensûr became the winner of elections in Diyala, sharing its northern border with Iraqi Kurdistan.
For the first time in the Saladin Governorate with the majority of the population being Arabic, with Turkmen and Kurdish minorities, a candidate of the PUK has won the elections.
Kerim Shukur, from the Kurdistan Alliance formed by the Gorran Movement and Bafil Talabani, co-chair of the PUK, collected enough votes (more than 11 thousand) to win one of the four seats in Tuz Khurmatu (Xurmatu), according to the Hamrin Office of the PUK.
In 2018 none of the six Kurdish candidates was able to win a seat in Saladin, which is controlled by the Hashd al-Shaabi, a predominantly Shia fighting force.