Polling stations in Iraq were kept open for an extra hour to allow last minute voters to cast their ballots in the country’s historic parliamentary election.
Turnout is reported to be around 67 per cent, which means more than 10 million Iraqis responded to the call to vote.
Predictions of widespread violence have proved to be unfounded, although two people were killed in bomb and mortar attacks on polling stations in Mosul and Tal Afar, and there was a mortar attack in Baghdad.
“I’m voting in these elections which will be a direct blow against the terrorists who’re trying to destroy this country and to bring back the former regime so they can control our wealth. We have to vote to defeat them,” said one Shi’ite man in Najaf.
A traffic ban was imposed and security was high, with authorities building on the experience of previous elections to appoint the interim government and approve the constitution.
In Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit there was no shortage of enthusiasm.
“I hope that every Iraqi will come forward and use his vote and add his voice to democracy, and that’s all we ask from our people,” says a Sunni man.
There have been some claims of irregularities, including allegations of multiple voting, with complaints lodged with the UN-backed electoral commission.
“I walked an hour from the al Qadissyah district of Kirkuk to be here and use my right to vote, and I’m happy for the Iraqi people, from the north, the centre and the south,” testified one Iraqi.
Some preliminary results should be available in a few days, but the real shape of the parliament will not be known for weeks.
The high turnout could have a profound effect on the political scene, currently dominated by figures like President Jalal Talabani, an Iraqi Kurd.
Sunni Muslims, who boycotted last January’s election, are reportedly turning out in force. It is hoped this could take away momentum from the insurgency.
The secular list of former PM Iyad Allawi is also believed to be attracting voters.
The new parliament will name a government and prime minister, who will then have to examine requests to reform the constitution.