BAGHDAD (Dispatches) – Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has called an early general election for June 6, 2021, roughly a year ahead of when it would normally be held.
Early elections are a key demand of protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year. Iraqi’s parliament must still ratify the election date.
Kadhimi was selected by parliament in May to head a government that would guide the country towards early elections. His predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi quit under pressure from protests in December last year.
Activists have also demanded fairer elections and changes to Iraq’s voting process and election committee.
The United Nations praised Kadhimi’s announcement saying it would promote "greater stability and democracy”.
Voter turnout in Iraq’s last election was 44.5 percent.
Kadhimi’s government faces a health crisis with a rapid spread of the coronavirus, and a fiscal crisis because of low oil revenues and exports.
Mass protests swept over the capital Baghdad and the south of the country in October 2019, with young crowds demanding jobs, services, and urgent action against alleged rampant corruption.
Former Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi stepped down under the pressure of the rallies, which were sometimes marred by deadly violence.
Late last year, a new electoral law was passed, aiming at giving political independents a better chance of securing seats in parliament and weakening the hold of the ruling elites, but political differences prevail over the implementation of the legislation.
If the new law is implemented, it would change each of Iraq’s 18 provinces into a number of electoral districts, with one lawmaker elected per 100,000 people, meaning that it would practically bar parties from running on unified lists, which in the past has helped them win all the seats in a certain province.