Why do Iraq’s elections matter to the world?

While few Iraqis expect meaningful change in their day-to-day lives, the parliament elections will shape the direction of Iraq’s foreign policy at a key time in the Middle East, including as Iraq is mediating between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Iraq’s vote comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in the region, partially spurred by the Biden administration’s gradual retreat from the Middle East and icy relations with traditional ally Saudi Arabia. Current Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has sought to portray Iraq as a neutral mediator in the region’s crises. In recent months, Baghdad hosted several rounds of direct talks between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran in a bid to ease tensions.

Under Iraq’s laws, the winner of Sunday’s vote gets to choose the country’s next prime minister, but it’s unlikely any of the competing coalitions can secure a clear majority.

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