Frustration in Iraq: voter turnout drops to record low

A new parliament is being elected in Iraq, but interest has never been lower. Many people have little hope of changing anything with their voice. The fear of attacks also keeps them away from the polling stations.

The frustration of many Iraqis with the country’s political elite drove their turnout in Sunday’s general election to a record low. 42 percent of voters cast their vote, as the Iraqi election commission announced on Monday night. In a total of five elections, this is the lowest turnout since the overthrow of long-term ruler Saddam Hussein in 2003. As early as 2018, it had fallen to its lowest level of 44.5 percent.

Oil-rich Iraq is in a political and economic crisis. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kasimi had preferred the vote after mass protests. The demonstrations broke out in October 2019. They were directed against rampant corruption, the weak economic situation and poor infrastructure.

Activists of the protest movement had called for an election boycott. Many Iraqis have little faith in politics. They stayed away from the vote because they do not expect the election to change the existing balance of power. Election observers also attributed the low turnout to the large number of security forces. According to official information, more than 250,000 security guards were on duty to prevent incidents. The security effort seems to “deter people a bit”, said the head of the EU election observers, the Green MEP Viola von Cramon. Cells of the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) are still active in Iraq.