Shepparton News

Security tight as Iraq goes to the polls

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BAGHDAD: Iraqis will head to the polls in a parliament­ary election brought forward in response to months-long street protests in favour of reform.

The elections are the second since Iraq declared military victory over the Islamic State militant group almost four years ago.

While the militants have been weakened, Islamic State cells remain active and regularly carry out attacks in parts of the country.

More than 250,000 security personnel have been deployed to secure polling stations across Iraq, officials said.

Around 3249 candidates, including 951 women, are vying for seats in the 329-strong parliament. A quarter of the seats are allocated for women.

Incumbent Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who took office in May last year, brought forward the vote by several months in response to the protests.

The mandate of the assembly, elected in 2018, was due to expire in 2022.

Mass protests erupted in Iraq in 2019, with demonstrat­ors calling for the government to resign, the dissolutio­n of parliament and an overhaul of the country’s political system, which has been in place since the 2003 United States-led invasion.

The protesters also decried rampant corruption and a shortage of basic services including electricit­y.

Nearly 25 million people are eligible to vote on Sunday, although observers predict a low turnout.

Many Iraqis are disincline­d to vote because they do not expect a change in the balance of power in the country.

Initial results are expected on Monday.

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