Iraqi election
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Iraq Votes In First Elections Since Victory Over IS

The vote - the fourth since the 2003 US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein - has been conducted electronically for the first time to reduce...

Iraqi election

Cover: A member of the Iraqi military casts his ballot at a polling station in Baghdad on 10 May 2018. Early voting opened for military and security personnel for the Iraqi parliamentary elections on 12 May. (Picture: PA)

Polls have closed across Iraq in the first national election since the country declared victory over the Islamic State group.

The vote, the fourth since the 2003 US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, was marked by reports of low turnout and irregularities.

Results are expected within the next 48 hours, according to the independent body that oversees Iraq's election, but negotiations to choose a prime minister tasked with forming a government are expected to drag on for months.

Voting began early Saturday in a contest that had no clear front-runner after weeks of official campaigning.

Haider al-Abadi
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's stiffest competition came from political parties with closer ties to Iran. (Picture: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Baghdad's streets began to fill up with cars before voting concluded after al-Abadi partially lifted a security curfew in an effort to improve turnout.

Nearly all civilian vehicles had been banned from Baghdad's streets on Saturday morning and many voters complained of having to walk more than two miles to reach polling stations.

For those who did attempt to vote, some in Baghdad complained of voting irregularities at polling stations linked to a new electronic voting system implemented for the first time this year in an effort to reduce fraud.

Despite the premier's military achievements, Iraq continues to struggle with an economic downturn, sparked in part by a drop in global oil prices, entrenched corruption and years of political gridlock.

Mr al-Abadi's most powerful opponents are his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, and an alliance of candidates with close ties to the country's powerful, mostly Shiite paramilitary forces.

Al-Abadi has led a more cross-sectarian government marked by his ability to balance the interests of his two allies often at odds: the US and Iran.

The war left more than two million Iraqis, mostly Sunnis, displaced from their homes, with cities, towns and villages suffering heavy destruction.

In total there are 329 parliament seats at stake, with nearly 7,000 candidates from dozens of political alliances.

Government formation negotiations are expected to drag on for months after that as the dozens of political parties attempt to cobble together a political bloc large enough to hold a majority of seats in parliament.

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