Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Iraq’s Provincial Elections Marked By Lowest Voter Turnout Since 2003


On December 18 Iraq held its first provincial elections in ten years. It likely had the lowest voter turnout since elections started in 2005 due to a boycott by Moqtada al-Sadr and widespread apathy and distrust of the political system.


The Iraqi Election Commission announced the official voter participation rate as 41%. That was the same number as the 2021 parliamentary elections, but below the 2018 election figure of 44%. Voting overall has greatly decreased since the first post-Saddam balloting in 2005 when 76% took part in parliamentary elections.


The government has been trying to save face by cooking the numbers. There were 23 million people eligible to vote but the Election Commission only counted those that updated their voter date and received new voting cards which was 16 million. 6.5 million voted which led to the official figure of 41% but if you used the total number of the participation rate would drop to 28%.


Even without that math the number of voters dropped from 2021 to 2023. In the last parliamentary elections 8,027,781 Iraqis cast ballots out of 18,840,317 registered voters. This year 6,599,668 voted out of 16,158,788. That’s 1,428,113 less people.


Boycotts and widespread apathy and cynicism about the Iraqi political system were the causes of the decrease. Moqtada al-Sadr called for his followers not to take part in an attempt to delegitimize the election. He won first place in 2021. Iyad Allawi and some newer parties also announced a boycott and elements of the protest movement did as well. Added to that is the feeling amongst many Iraqis that voting is no longer worthwhile because the same parties win and nothing changes. The Iraqi elite have proven that they are more interested in looting the state and enriching themselves then serving the public.


The Election Commission also released the early results showing a three way race in much of the country between Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law, Nabni, the We Build Alliance led by Badr’s Hadi Amiri and Ammar Hakim and Haidar al-Abadi’s National State Forces Alliance. State of Law is the biggest winner so far coming in first in 8 out of 15 provinces and 2nd place in one. The National State Forces won second place in 4 provinces and Nabni came in 2nd in two provinces and 3rd in seven. In the last voting Hakim and Abadi did horribly so this was quite a rebound for them.


Former Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Halbusi’s Taqadum won first place in Baghdad which was quite a feat and came in second in Anbar. It’s widely believed that the ruling Coordination Framework was behind Halbusi’s removal in November to weaken the Sunni parties and use the position as a bargaining chip in forming new provincial governments.


Finally, amongst the major Kurdish parties the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) did better than its rival the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The PUK has been declared the winner in Diyala and Kirkuk while the KDP came in second in Diyala and 3rd in Ninewa. The PUK has been in a steady decline since the passing of its leader former President Jalal Talabani. The KDP has taken advantage and has asserted itself as the dominant party in Kurdistan and increasingly refused to share power with the Patriotic Union. Winning in two provinces then was quite a comeback for the PUK.


State of Law/Maliki:

1st place Babil, Dhi Qar, Diwaniya, Karbala, Maysan, Muthanna, Najaf, Wasit

2nd place Baghdad


2nd place Najaf, Wasit

3rd place Babil, Baghdad, Dhi Qar, Diwaniiya, Karbala, Maysan, Muthanna

National State Forces Alliance/Hakim and Abadi:

2nd place Babil, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Muthanna


1st place Baghdad

2nd place Anbar


1st place Diyala, Kirkuk


2nd place Diyala

3rd place Ninewa




Al Aalem, “The boycott of the elections is expanding .. The traditional forces are between the desire for monopoly and observance of international legitimacy,” 8/25/23

- “Dhi Qar elections .. The traditional parties are betting and the Tishreen movement is threatening,” 9/2/23

- “The Forces of October … Division and dispersion and their credibility is at stake,” 8/10/23


Fadel, Leila, “Low turnout in Iraq’s election reflects a disillusioned nation,” McClatchy Newspapers, 2/2/09


Al Mada, “The Framework got rid of the pressure on the lists and seeks to postpone the selection of Al-Halbusi’s replacement to 2024,” 11/28/23

- “A policy deal is behind the acceleration of choosing a replacement for Al-Halbusi, and the Framework agrees on two candidates,” 12/12/23

- “The position of Speaker of Parliament turns into a negotiating card after the provincial elections,” 11/27/23


Mahmoud, Sinan, “Iran-backed political parties sweep Iraq’s local elections in Shiite heartland,” The National, 12/19/23


Porter, Llizzie, “Election law sparks hope, but reformers remain concerned,” Iraq Oil Report, 11/25/20


Rudaw, “Preliminary results from Iraq’s provincial council elections,” 12/19/23


Shakir, Layal, “Record-low turnout in Iraq’s election,” Rudaw, 10/11/21


Al Sumaria, “The participate rate debate … Is 28% the closest to accurate in the provincial council elections?” 12/19/23






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