Iraqi authorities have reported relatively peaceful but widespread voting in local elections.
In Iraq’s first big vote since 2005, polling stations stayed open for an extra hour to allow late-comers to cast their ballots. Seen as a test of the country’s fragile democracy and stability, women also voted in large numbers, with female candidates making up some 27 percent of those running. While he himself was not standing, the vote was also being viewed as a referendum on Shia prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. Such tight security had not been seen since the height of the insurgency, but this time around security was exclusively home grown. One Iraqi official said: “The security arrangements are entirely devised and are been carried out by Iraqis. As you can see there is no involvement of multi-national forces. We think the Iraqi people are pleased to see their own people being responsible for security.’‘ Unlike previous polls, large numbers of people from all sides of the sectarian divide took part, including Sunni Arabs who boycotted elections in 2005 because of the continued American presence in Iraq. A curfew and vehicle ban is in operation with Iraq’s international borders closed. The election result is expected on Wednesday.