Thousands of votes have already been cast in Iraq by the police and army, inmates and hospital patients in advance of Sunday’s election when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki bids to win a seond term on a platform of providing services and security.
In Syria 23 polling stations opened on Saturday for exiled Iraqis. It’s been a similar scene in 15 other Arab and Western countries.
Around one million Iraqis live in Syria, many boycotted the last election. Now there are fresh hopes their votes will count towards a new and effective democracy.
“I, honestly did not vote in the last elections because I felt that they were a failure but now, no, I feel that there has been a change and those who are unified are those who will bring good,” explained one refugee from Baghdad, Shada Najib
The carnage of a morning bomb blast was a reminder of the continuing problems. Two tour buses were gutted in a blast in the holy city of Najaf, four Iranian pilgrims were killed.
Baghdad is now enveloped in a tight ring of security in preparation for Sunday’s polling. At least 45 people have been killed in the build up. Insurgents have warned they will try and disrupt the vote, only the second time the country has gone to the polls since the 2003 US led invasion which ousted Sadam Hussein.
It is a day that is set to provide a sharp test for Iraq’s young democracy and could help determine whether the country can avoid a relapse into violence as US forces prepare to withdraw by the end of 2011.