Iraqis vote in first election since IS defeat

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Baghdad, May 12 (IANS) Millions of Iraqis across the country headed to vote on Saturday for their representatives in Parliament, for the first time after the full territorial defeat of Islamic State (IS) terror group in Iraq.

The polls kicked off at 7 a.m. and will continue till 6 p.m. Iraqi Vice President Nuri al-Maliki was the first top official to vote at a polling centre in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad.

About 7,000 candidates, representing 205 political entities, are competing for the 329 parliamentary seats to form a new government for the next four years, Xinhua news agency reported.

“This is an important day in Iraq’s history and in the history of the political process which was built on the freedom of voting,” Maliki told reporters after casting his ballot.

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“Election is the only way to give democracy a success and I call on all the people to choose the proper person, whoever they believe, to be their representative in the coming Council of Representatives (Parliament),” he added.

The second top official to cast his vote was Parliament Speaker Salik al-Jubouri, who said: “We are optimistic and we have a hope that Iraqi people would densely participate in the voting process.”

Kamil Khudir, a middle-aged man who voted in central Baghdad, said: “I expect the voting can bring better life for our people. Young people are jobless and we need public services. We need everything.”

More than 24 million Iraqis are eligible to vote in 8,959 polling centres across Iraq in the first general elections since Iraq’s military victory over the IS militants in December 2017.

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