Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Iraq’s Sunnis voting without hope in first election since Islamic State

Ahmed Aboulenein and Raya Jalabi write for Reuters:

At the gates of Tikrit under a giant billboard of a Shi’ite militia commander, hundreds of Iraqi Sunni Arabs wait in the scorching sun for hours to be searched before being let into the city that was once the power base of Saddam Hussein.

Treated as Islamic State sympathizers by Iraq’s Shi’ite dominated security forces and militias, the Sunnis near Tikrit say they feel disillusioned and alienated ahead of a May 12 election to elect a new prime minister.

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Iraqi vote offers chance to chart post-IS future

Qassim Abdul-Zahra writes for AP:

Iraqis head to the polls this weekend for the first time since the government declared victory against the Islamic State group, in national elections that could tilt the balance of power between the United States and Iran.

The May 12 election, the fourth since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, will be dominated by the same leaders and factions that emerged 15 years ago. But the atrocities committed by IS against fellow Sunnis, the hard-fought national campaign against the extremist group and new rifts among the dominant Shiite blocs seem to have eased the sectarian tensions that marked past votes.

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Iraq’s Kurdistan region to hold elections on Sept. 30

Reuters reports:

The semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence last year in a referendum rejected by Baghdad, will hold an election on Sept. 30.

A Kurdistan Regional Government media official said KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani had approved the date.

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Iraq elections: All you need to know

Arwa Ibrahim writes for Al Jazeera:

Iraqis will head to the polls on May 12 to elect a new national parliament, which will serve as the basis for the formation of a new government.

Many parties have taken the opportunity to emphasise a unified, cross-sectarian national identity in the run-up to the vote after elections four years ago which came at a time when Iraq was plagued with some of the worst sectarian violence in recent history.

But unlike in 2014 and 2010, when large coalitions encompassing a wide spectrum of political groups ran, the 2018 election landscape is splintered by intra-sectarian divisions and fragmented Shia, Sunni and Kurdish factions.

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Paramilitary strongman sets sights on Iraq premiership

Andrew England writes for Financial Times:

In elections that will shape the trajectory Iraq takes after being consumed for four years by the fight against Isis, Mr Ameri has emerged as one of the country’s most powerful figures. His new political bloc, Fatah, is considered a main challenger in prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s quest for a second term.

The incumbent’s Shia-dominated Nasr list is expected to win a plurality, with Fatah running second. But given the fragmented nature of Iraqi politics, with months of post-election horse-trading and coalition-building the norm, Mr Ameri — viewed by many as pro-Iran — will be a key powerbroker.

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After war against IS, Iraq fighters target election victory

Sarah Benhaida writes for AFP:

Not long ago they were battling against the Islamic State group -- now members of Iraqi paramilitary units have swapped the bullets for ballots as they compete in upcoming elections.

Five months after Iraq declared IS beaten, Najem is making a first foray into politics by standing for national parliamentary elections on May 12 in his southern home region Basra.

Running at the head of an alliance of local civil society figures and technocrats he says his experience in battle is perfect preparation for taking on Iraq's corrupt elite.

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In Baghdad, Iraqis embrace return to normalcy, with eye on its fragility

Scott Peterson writes for The Christian Science Monitor:

In Baghdad the differences are striking: Blast walls are coming down, malls are going up, and streets are reopening. But as Iraq's capital sheds the visual reminders of war's long, painful grip, is it enough to just wish peace into existence? Baghdad isn't letting its guard down completely, but the fatigue with fighting and yearning for normalcy are changing the face of the city.

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ISIS claims assassination of Iraq election candidate

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the assassination of an Iraqi parliamentary candidate on Sunday night, just days before polls open in one of the region's most anticipated elections.

Gunmen shot dead Faruq Zarzur Al Jubouri, a 45-year-old candidate loyal to Vice President Ayad Allawi, at his home in the town of Qayyarah, 70 kilometres from Mosul, the former ISIS bastion in northern Iraq.

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Once a relative unknown, Iraqi PM Abadi seeks second term

Raya Jalabi and Ahmed Aboulenein write for Reuters:

Few outside Iraq knew the name Haider al-Abadi in 2014 when he was plucked from relative obscurity to lead a nation in chaos.

Four years on, Abadi has defied the expectations of an army of skeptics.

A former electrical engineer once in charge of servicing BBC elevators during years of voluntary exile in the United Kingdom, Abadi is banking on his achievements in office to win a second term at May 12 elections.

But victory is far from certain.

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What to expect from Iraq’s election on Saturday

Renad Mansour writes for The Washington Post:

Iraqis head to the polls on May 12 to vote for their next federal government. This will be the first time they vote since the territorial rise and fall of the Islamic State. It is also the first vote since a widespread protest movement started in 2015, calling for the removal of the current ruling elite and major reforms to the political system governing Iraq since 2003.

This vote, and the subsequent government-formation process, will determine Iraq’s political future. Despite a number of polls, it is impossible to tell who will become the next prime minister. Yet, pre-election maneuverings and strategies offer glimpses into the country’s political trajectory and the prospects of stabilization and rebuilding. Although many now celebrate the shift from identity– to issue-based politics in Iraq, this election reveals that change will not come as quickly as analysts might expect.

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