News / Middle East

Iraqis Vote in First Polls Since US Withdrawal

A man holds up his ink-stained finger as he casts his vote at a polling station in Baghdad, April 20, 2013.A man holds up his ink-stained finger as he casts his vote at a polling station in Baghdad, April 20, 2013.
x
A man holds up his ink-stained finger as he casts his vote at a polling station in Baghdad, April 20, 2013.
A man holds up his ink-stained finger as he casts his vote at a polling station in Baghdad, April 20, 2013.
Edward Yeranian
Iraqis voted Saturday for local councils in 12 provinces across the country, in the first popular election since the U.S. pullout in December 2011.

Turnout was light to moderate at polling stations across the capital, Baghdad, and in 11 other provinces where local council elections were held amid tight security. Around 8,000 candidates were reportedly vying for seats on the provincial councils.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki voted early at Baghdad's Rashid Hotel, along with several other top politicians. A handful of international observers were present to monitor the polling.

Observers say the vote is a barometer of Mr. Maliki's popularity in the lead-up to next year's parliamentary election. Rival Sunni politicians have been demanding that he step down, amid popular protests against him in western parts of the country.

No major violence was reported Saturday, despite widespread fears that Sunni insurgents might try to disrupt the vote. Mortar rounds and percussion bombs reportedly went off in six locations. General Othman al-Ghanami, a top election official, said violence was minimal.

He says that a security committee put together a detailed plan for the election, to ensure voters' safety and encourage them to turn out. He says that everyone knows how bad security once was, but that now, thank God, the situation is calm.

National election officials refused to extend voting beyond the official 5 p.m. closing time, despite a number of local requests to do so. Iraqi state TV reported that the vote count would get under way immediately in most places.

A number of complaints were reported, after voters at many polling stations indicated that their names were not on electoral lists and that officials refused to let them vote. A handful of middle-aged women argued with election officials in the town of Kut, insisting they should be allowed to vote.

They say that they are Iraqi citizens and that they cannot vote. They ask why their names are not on the electoral list even though they were told to come to a specific polling station for displaced people.

The election was the first since a disputed parliamentary poll in February 2009. Prime Minister Maliki came in second to former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in that election, but insisted on forming the next government. His Sunni rivals argue that he went on to marginalize their community, holding on to key ministries and refusing to respect a power-sharing agreement.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs