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Iraqi forces cast ballots ahead of parliamentary elections
Baghdad, April 28 (IANS) Iraqi security personnel on Monday cast their votes across the country ahead of parliamentary elections on April 30 amid tight security.
The voting began after 7.00 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) when hundreds of soldiers and policemen lined up at polling centres across the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and in other cities to cast their ballots, Xinhua reported.
Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) decided that security forces vote two days ahead of the scheduled election date in order to be free to guard polling stations on election day.
The forces intensified security measures as hundreds of soldiers and policemen were deployed on the main streets and intersections of the country’s capital while dozens of mobile checkpoints were added across Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Iraqi expatriates continued casting their ballots for the second day on Monday in 70 cities in 19 countries.
Expatriates in New Zealand, Jordan and Iran cast their votes on Sunday.
The last general elections were held on March 7, 2010, which resulted in the partial victory of the Iraqi National Movement led by former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. It won a total of 91 seats, making it the largest alliance in the council.
The State of Law Coalition, led by present Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, was the second largest with 89 seats.
The 2010 elections were deemed controversial as there were numerous allegations of fraud and a recount of the votes was ordered by the IHEC on April 19, 2010.
A new parliament opened on June 14, 2010, and a new government was finally formed on Nov 11, 2010, with Maliki continuing as the prime minister.
The 2014 general elections are the first since the withdrawal of the US military forces from Iraq.
The IHEC has allowed 276 political entities to run in the elections this year.
The approved list includes the prime minister’s State of Law Coalition, the Sadrist Movement (Ahrar), President Jalal Talabani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Iraqi National Accord.
New parties, including the former militant group Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the White Iraqiya Bloc which split from the Iraqi National Accord, also appear in the approved list.
There are 6,425 male candidates and 2,607 female candidates competing for 328 seats in the Iraqi Council of Representatives.
However, militant attacks targeting candidates, election workers and political rallies have increased as the election date nears.
Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs.