Iraqi voters spell doom for religious parties
Iraqis voted heavily for secular parties in last weekend's provincial polls, in a show of disaffection with the religious parties that lead the central government, early indications showed yesterday.
In a further sign of voter disillusionment, turnout in the country's first elections since 2005 was little more than 50 percent, and even lower among the Shia majority community.
The Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the Shia religious party that won control of seven out of the 11 mainly Shia provinces four years ago, looked set to lose at least five of them, according to early results from the electoral commission.
The outcome was a serious blow for the party's aspirations to establish a Shia autonomous region in the centre and south like the Kurdish one in the far north.
The big winners were secular parties, including not only the list of former prime minister Iyad Allawi but also several new formations, some with links to the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.
"According to the preliminary estimates, new parties will advance, which will make significant changes in the political map and the nature of alliances in the future," the state-run Al-Sabah newspaper said in an editorial.
The rout of the religious parties looked set to extend even to the Shia clerical centre of Najaf, where SIIC was poised to lose control of the provincial council.
"People are fed up with the way religious parties have acted because they are disconnected from modern life, especially the Supreme Islamic Council which has strong ties to Iran," said Mohammed Kazim, 38, who works as an odd jobs man in the central shrine city.