Iraqis begin voting in parliamentary elections


People in Iraq have gone to the polls to elect a new parliament as al-Qaeda-linked militants are threatening to disrupt the elections by bombings.

Iraqis began voting early on Wednesday in the country’s parliamentary polls. Wednesday’s vote is Iraq’s first parliamentary polls since US forces withdrew from the country in 2011.

Over 20 million voters will choose between upwards of 9,000 candidates running for 328 seats. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is hoping to win a third term.

The vote is also a major test for Iraqi security forces. Iraqi soldiers and police cast their ballots on April 28, two days before the national elections, so that they can guard the polling stations on Wednesday.

Over the past several days, militants have been targeting candidates, election workers, and political rallies.

Takfiri groups such as the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are reportedly coming to Iraq from neighboring Syria and Saudi Arabia to undermine security in the country.

Terrorist attacks across the country killed 24 people on Tuesday, while over 60 people died in a nationwide spate of explosions on Monday.

The government in Baghdad has blamed Riyadh for the Iraq chaos, saying Saudi Arabia is funding and arming militants fighting against Iraqi forces in the country’s western areas, including Anbar Province.