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‘Purple finger fatigue’ in Iraq as voters shun elections

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But the voting was marked by widespread apathy and a boycott by many of the young activists who thronged the streets of Baghdad and Iraq’s southern provinces in late 2019. Tens of thousands of people took part in the mass protests and were met by security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas. More than 600 people were killed and thousands injured within just a few months.

Although authorities gave in and called the early elections, the death toll and the heavy-handed crackdown — as well as a string of targeted assassinations — prompted many who took part in the protests to later call for a boycott of the vote.

Negotiations to choose a prime minister tasked with forming a Government are expected to drag on for weeks or even months.

The election was the sixth held since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many were sceptical that independent candidates from the protest movement stood a chance against well-entrenched parties and politicians, many of them backed by powerful armed militias.

Minutes after polls closed, fireworks organised by Baghdad’s municipality went off in the city’s landmark Tahrir Square, where demonstrators had set up tents for several months starting in October 2019. The protests fizzled out by February of the following year, due to the security crackdown and later, the coronavirus pandemic.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, whose chances for a second term will be determined by the results of the election, urged Iraqis to vote in large numbers.

The election is the first since the fall of Saddam to proceed without a curfew in place, reflecting the significantly improved security situation in the country following the defeat of IS in 2017. Previous votes were marred by fighting and deadly bomb attacks that have plagued the country for decades.

More than 250,000 security personnel across the country were tasked with protecting the vote. Soldiers, police and anti-terrorism forces fanned out and deployed outside polling stations, some of which were ringed by barbed wire. Voters were patted down and searched.

– INDIA TODAY

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