Iraqis voted in their first parliamentary elections on May 12, 2018, since the government defeated the jihadist Islamic State (IS) in 2017. According to BBC, 7,000 candidates from rival alliances are vying for seats in the 329-member assembly. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on "all Iraqis" to take part in the elections and cast his ballot in Bagdad.
The competing coalitions are predominantly Shia or Sunni, though the Kurds have their own lists. Although the Shia-led government has won praise for the victory over IS militants, many Iraqis are disillusioned by widespread government corruption and a slow economy.
The current prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, heads the Nasr list, which is likely to get the most votes. But under the Iraqi system he will not be able to form a majority government, and will have to negotiate for a coalition that could go on for months.
The veteran paramilitary commander Hadi al-Amiri heads the Fatah list, which has become the political home of the Shia fighters and supporters of the Hashd. On another front, Nouri al-Maliki, the former prime minister, captures Mosul and the Sunni territory.
At any rate, the prime-minister-elect will face major challenges of reconstruction, as well as preventing the country from descending back into sectarian civil war. The elections need to produce a government all sects in Iraq can work with. After so many years of bloodshed, suffering and sectarian struggle, the country needs this election to be a turning point.
Many Sunnis are worried about the Hashd fighters and their leader and candidate, Mr Amiri. Having close ties with Shias in Iran, Amiri will make the Iranians, through their friends in the Hashd, the strongest foreign force in Iraq.
Reuters reported that voter turnout appeared low, voter irregularities occurred, and three people were killed in an attack near a polling station in the northern province of Kirkuk, according to local media.
The elections came just days after US President Donald Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal on May 8. Some Iraqis fear their country could once again became entangled in any struggle between America and Iran. Could Iran be the real winner? Iran fought hard against the jihadist extremists. Many of Iraq’s recovery efforts are also funded by Iran.
Iraq is fragile and battered since the Americans and their allies invaded in 2003. If the election results on Monday May 14 present an outcome most Iraqis can accept, and a new government then works hard to rebuild, this country may have a chance to assume some stability in the bright scenario.