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Saturday, August 01, 2020, 16:40
Iraq PM calls early election for June 6, 2021
By Reuters
Saturday, August 01, 2020, 16:40 By Reuters

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi wears a protective face mask to help prevent spread of the coronavirus as he gives a press briefing with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in Tehran, Iran, July 21, 2020. (IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE VIA AP)

BAGHDAD - Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Friday 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 Iraqi anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year and were killed in their hundreds by security forces and gunmen suspected of links to militia groups.

The United Nations praised Kadhimi’s announcement saying it would promote “greater stability and democracy”

Iraqi’s parliament must still ratify the election date.

READ MORE: Iraq protests take toll on economy, vulnerable suffer most

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 after widespread accusations of fraud in the last nationwide vote in 2018.

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, but especially low in some impoverished southern Shi’ite Muslim areas. Many Iraqis say they have no faith in Iraq’s electoral system.

ALSO READ: At Iraq's polls, many voters seek patronage and jobs

Demonstrators who took to the street in their hundreds of thousands last year accuse the political elite, especially lawmakers, of squandering Iraq’s oil wealth to line their own pockets.

Kadhimi’s government faces a health crisis with a rapid spread of the coronavirus, a fiscal crisis because of low oil revenues and exports, challenges from powerful militia groups which oppose him and a rising Islamic State insurgency.

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