Iraq began voting Saturday in its first parliamentary election since declaring victory over the Islamic State group, with the country hoping to shore up a fragile peace and rebuild. Polling stations opened around the conflict-scarred nation under tight security as the jihadists still pose a major security threat despite a sharp fall in violence. The ballot comes with tensions surging between key players Iran and the United States over the nuclear deal, sparking fears of a destabilising power struggle over Iraq. Roughly 24.5 million voters face a fragmented political landscape five months after IS were ousted, with the dominant Shiites split, the Kurds in disarray and Sunnis sidelined.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who – took over as IS rampaged across Iraq in 2014 – is angling for a new term, claiming credit for defeating the jihadists and seeing off a Kurdish push for independence.
But competition from within his Shiite community, the majority group dominating Iraqi politics, should divide the vote and spell lengthy horse-trading to form any government.