Iraqis began voting in the first parliamentary election today since declaring victory over the Islamic State terror group. Polling stations opened in Baghdad and other cities under tight security. More than 7,000 candidates in 18 provinces, or governorates, are running for 329 parliamentary seats. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, is contesting for a new term, claiming credit for defeating the IS terrorists and seeing off a Kurdish push for independence.
His two main challengers are his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia commander Hadi al-Amiri. The initial results are expected in three days. The voting comes with tensions surging between key players Iran and the United States over the nuclear deal, sparking fears of a destabilising power struggle over Iraq.
In Iraq, the post of Prime Minister has been reserved for a Shi’ite, the Speaker is a Sunni, and the ceremonial Presidency has gone to a Kurd – all three chosen by parliament.