Ns News Online Desk: BAGHDAD — Polls opened across Iraq on Saturday in the first national election since the declaration of victory over the Islamic State group. After hours of low voter turnout, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi partially lifted a security curfew to encourage more people to come to the polls.
After weeks of official campaigning, no clear front-runner has emerged as al-Abadi faces stiff competition from political parties with closer ties to Iran.
The announcement from al-Abadi’s office that a ban on civilian cars and buses in all provinces was partially lifted came after hours of relatively low turnout in Baghdad. The curfew had been in place since midnight the night before and many voters complained of having to walk more than 2.5 miles to reach polling stations.
Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric spoke out on the issue of voter participation Saturday afternoon, encouraging Iraqis to vote “to prevent the arrival of a corrupt parliament.”
“The lack of participation will give the opportunity for others to reach parliament and they will be very far from the aspirations of the people,” said Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalai, the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on local Iraqi television from Karbala. Sistani has repeatedly encouraged Iraqis to vote in Saturday’s elections and vote into power a new political class to combat corruption.