Iraq on 18 December held the first elections to provincial councils in a decade. But turnout was just 41%, amidst a call for boycott by powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (MEES, 17 November). This matches the low figure of October 2021 parliamentary elections (MEES, 15 October 2021) in another indication of dissatisfaction with the political system given widespread corruption and mismanagement.

The ruling Shia Coordination Framework (SCF) is expected to solidify its grip over the councils, with the political wings of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (MEES, 15 December) buoyed by votes from those serving in the security services. In oil-rich Basra, a party formed by Governor Assad al-Edani secured 12 of 22 seats paving the way for the powerful official to keep his post. In Kirkuk, the SCF-aligned Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) came first, followed by Arab and Turkmen blocs, leaving Iraqi Kurdistan's ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) fourth. Provincial elections for Kurdistan are planned for February. (CONTINUED - 150 WORDS)