Iraq counts votes as record abstentions hit election

BAGHDAD: Iraq tallied votes on Sunday as record abstentions dealt a blow to a political elite reviled for its perceived corruption, in the country’s first national poll since it defeated the IS group. Official results determining the makeup of the 329-seat parliament were expected in the coming days — while the horse-trading to form a new government looks set to take far longer. But what has emerged already is that many across the war-scarred nation are fed up with the establishment that has dominated since the 2003 US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein. “The policies of the last 15 years no longer convince voters,” Amir al Saadi, a politics professor at the University of Baghdad, said.

Official turnout on Saturday was 44.5 per cent — the lowest in any national poll since the US-led invasion — with Prime Minister Haider al Abadi angling for a new term after overseeing the fight against IS. Abadi faces several major challengers from within his dominant community four years after coming to power. Chief among them is Hadi al Ameri, a former commander of units that fought IS, who is looking to turn battlefield wins into political gains with his list of ex-combatants. An official said under condition of anonymity that initial tallies had Abadi’s list just ahead of that of Ameri, with an anti-establishment alliance of cleric Moqtada Sadr and communists in third. — AFP