Iraqis voted on Saturday for the first time since the defeat of Islamic State, with Prime Minister Haider Abadi, an ally of both the United States and Iran, trying to fend off powerful Shiite political groups that would pull the country closer to Tehran.
Iraqis expressed pride at the prospect of voting for the fourth time, but also said they had scant hope that the election would stabilize a country beset by conflicts, economic hardship and corruption.
Al Arabiya correspondents have been dispatched across several Iraqi cities like Najaf, Erbil, and Basra as well the capital Baghdad.
Ibrahim Hussain in Mosul:
Voting across Mosul electoral centers have been very weak since the early hours of the morning because of a curfew that was in effect but government sources have said that it is being lifted in some areas which will hopefully see an increase in voters heading to the polls.
Violations in these areas have been at a minimum, the only one we are officially aware of is that one of ballot box disappearing in one voting center at the Al Jadaa displacement camp south of Mosul.
Election monitors have been present but heavily in the camps for the internally displaced peoples.
Throughout the early hours of the morning, the situation on the ground seems to be quiet and security alerts have been at a minimum.
Monthader al-Rasheed in Baghdad:
The electoral centers across the Adhamiyah neighborhood looks strong today with five hours left into the elections.
We have been receiving reports that some of the electoral machines have been experiencing some technical faults and glitches in several centers but the electoral committees have placed alternative solutions for faulty machines and they do not expect any major issues in terms of vote counting later in the day.
The security situation appears normal in major parts of the city but we are hearing of reports of pockets of violence, especially near al-Sadr city where clashes have erupted between rival groups al-Fatah and al-Nasr alliances but officials have confirmed these have been unarmed and only fights between two or three groups.
Majid Hamid in Baghdad:
Electoral turnout in the capital has been very low during most of hours of the Election Day morning but we are told that a security curfew has been lifted across the capital and there is an expectation that the turnout will rise in the last three-four hours before the polls close across the country.
The two main talking-points among journalists and election observers have been the faulty electoral machines as well as the pocket of violence among rival factions in front of several voting centers have been noticed.
Ali Khalaf in Basra:
Across Basra, sources are telling Al Arabiya that the outskirts of the city, especially the villages and towns north and east of the city, have been witnessing a much stronger voter turnout than the voting centers in the heart of Basra city.
According to one election observer official, the center of Basra city has been witnessing an estimated 37 percent voter turnout.
Al-Bashaer center, where I’m reporting from, officials said that across five to eight centers are witnessing stronger voter turnout of between 70-80 percent.
There was a dip in turnout between noon and 3 PM, which was the lunch hour of many voters, but officials are expecting a return of voters to the centers within the last few hours of the polls being open.
In at least one voting center, we can confirm that they experienced heavy technical faults and glitches with the electronic voting machines and had to resort to traditional paper ballots.
Samer Youssef in Baghdad:
I am reporting from Baghdad’s voting center 1, which is the main center dedicated for high-ranking officials and delegates in Iraq’s capital.
We have been in constant talks with the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) officials who have not announced any numbers in relation to voter turnout but they have said they would confirm those details later in the day after polls have closed.
The turnout will be announced after 6 PM local time and a press conference is expected to be held where they will announce a date of when the official election results would be released. Officials Al Arabiya spoke to expected the date to be 48 hours after tonight.
Ahmed Hamadani in Erbil:
Across Erbil, there have been centers for two categories of voters mainly the residents of Erbil as well as for those internally displaced people.
The main issues Erbil voters have been facing, especially those who are internally displaced refugees, is not finding their names registered in the electoral voting centers.
Al Arabiya spoke to several IDP voters who tried finding their names in at least six or seven voting centers who then gave up after receiving advice from officials telling them to go home as they would not find their names in time before polls close later in the day.