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    Iraqis vote in general election, a test for democratic system

    Iraqis were voting on Sunday (Oct 10) in a general election many said they would boycott, having lost faith in the democratic system brought in by the US invasion of 2003.

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    The election is being held several months early under a new law designed to help independent candidates – a response to mass anti-government protests two years ago. But the established, armed and Shi’ite-dominated ruling elite is expected to sweep the vote.

    The result will not dramatically alter the balance of power in the country or the wider Middle East, say Iraqi officials, foreign diplomats and analysts.

    In the northern city of Kirkuk, Abu Abdullah said he showed up to vote an hour before polling stations opened.

    “I came since early morning to be the first voter to participate in an event that will hopefully bring change,” he said. “We expect the situation to improve significantly.”

    The United States, Gulf Arab countries and Israel on one side and Iran on the other compete for influence in Iraq, which has provided a gateway for Tehran to support militia proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

    At least 167 parties and more than 3,200 candidates are competing for Iraq’s 329 seats in parliament, according to the country’s election commission.

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