Iraqis have begun voting in parliamentary elections that will shape the country’s trajectory as it looks to rebuild and attract investment after its devastating four-year battle with Isis. The poll will determine whether prime minister Haider Al-Abadi, who is considered the favoured candidate of the west, can secure a second term. He is credited with balancing Iraq’s relations with the US, a key ally in the fight against Isis, and Iran, which has asserted increasing influence in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003, and helping ease sectarian tensions in the country.
But many Iraqis say that they have seen little improvement to their lives, as they complain about widespread unemployment, rampant corruption and the poor delivery of state services. “We want change, they [politicians] didn’t do anything before, but I’m hoping those running in the election will do something for the people,” said Ahmed, a 40-year-old plumber, who was one of a trickle of voters at polling stations in Baghdad on Saturday morning. “Security is the first thing. And services.” Mr Abadi’s Nasr, or Victory, alliance is expected to win the most seats in the 329-member parliament as it has campaigned on the government’s defeat of the jihadis, along with promises of reconstruction and improving services.
But given the fragmented state of politics in the oil-rich nation, the bloc is highly unlikely to get close to a majority, meaning that Mr Abadi will have to reach out to competing political lists to form a government. The process typically takes months, and analysts say that even if the prime minister’s alliance wins he is not guaranteed to retain the premier’s post.