Iraq’s cabinet has unanimously voted to postpone the country’s general elections to October 10, 2021, according to the INA state news agency.
The polls, which were scheduled for June 6, will still be held roughly a year early as the current parliament’s term officially ends in 2022.
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Tuesday’s postponement decision came after a proposal by Iraq’s Independent High Election Commission (IHEC), which requested more time to implement the legal and logistical measures needed to hold free and fair elections.
Earlier this week, the IHEC had suggested delaying the elections until October 16, according to a statement posted on its official website on Sunday.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi – who took office in May last year – had promised to hold early elections to appease protesters demanding an overhaul of the country’s political system.
The mass demonstrations began in October 2019, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets of the capital, Baghdad, and across the south to protest against a lack of economic opportunities, endemic corruption and what many see as the malign influence of sectarian interests.
They accused the political elite, especially legislators, of squandering Iraq’s oil wealth to line their own pockets.
Elections in Iraq are sometimes marred by violence and often by fraud.
Voter turnout in Iraq’s last election was 44.5 percent, but especially low in some impoverished southern Shia Muslim areas. Many Iraqis say they have no faith in Iraq’s electoral system.
Al-Kadhimi’s government faces a health crisis amid a rapid spread of the coronavirus and a fiscal crisis because of low oil revenues and exports, as well as challenges from powerful armed groups which oppose him.