Voting places have opened the second parliamentary election in Iraq since the invasion amidst usual levels of violence, large security forces and many international monitors. “Despite extra security measures to prevent violence, at least 17 people died in two separate blasts in Baghdad. The border with Iran has been closed, thousands of troops deployed, and vehicle movement has been banned. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki called on voters to turn out in large numbers, saying that participation would boost democracy. The election is taking place against a backdrop of much reduced violence, with casualty figures among civilians, Iraqi forces and US troops significantly lower than in recent years. But hundreds of people are still being killed each month, corruption is high and the provision of basic services such as electricity is still sporadic. In the latest violence, 12 people were killed and eight injured when an explosion destroyed a residential building in northern Baghdad, officials said, shortly after another blast in the city killed five others. Sporadic mortar fire could be heard across the city after polls opened at 0400 GMT, and there were also reports of mortar rounds being fired in Salahuddin province.
Islamic militants had pledged to disrupt the voting process with attacks – a group affiliated to al-Qaeda distributed leaflets in Baghdad warning people not to go to the polls. A vast operation, involving more than half-a-million members of Iraq’s combined security forces, has been put in place to try to prevent attackers from disrupting the election.”