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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs