On the eve of parliamentary elections in Iraq, orders have been given for a curfew at nightfall. Extra security forces are deployed, checkpoints manned on street corners throughout the capital.
In spite of increased violence, people appear determined that the elections proceed as planned. In March alone, 180 civilians were killed in Baghdad. The Al Qaeda-affiliated group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant threatens to kill Sunni Muslims if they vote.
“Whatever security is like tomorrow, we’re going to vote against the terrorists’ wishes and against the corrupt government,” said one central Baghdad resident. “All the people of Iraq have decided to change who is in power, and, God willing, tomorrow we will change them.”
Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is running for a third term in office in the face of political opposition and sectarian violence that has risen to its highest level since 2008. He is also defence and interior minister. This and his offensive against Sunni militias, launched last year, have made it likely he will succeed in his bid for re-election.
Our correspondent Mohammed Shaikhibrahim said: “Baghdad’s streets are almost empty of people, and traffic is very light. Most shops closed their doors today, with the vote approaching. The curfew will be enforced this evening.”