1. Iraqi voters braved the threat of sectarian and political violence on Wednesday to vote in the country’s first parliamentary elections since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.
2. The election came as Iraq is facing the worst bloodshed and political divides it has seen in years; at least 14 people died in attacks on voters and elections polls, including roadside bombs, the BBC reported.
3. For many Iraqis, today’s headlines are increasingly reminiscent of the years that followed the U.S-led invasion, when government corruption, sectarian fighting, attacks on civilians, and roaming militias made the daily life of Iraqis a continual struggle.
4. This year, more than 22 million Iraqis are eligible to vote, with more than 9,000 candidates vying for 328 parliamentary spots, according to the BBC.
5. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is running for reelection. He is expected to win — but his party is not expected to gain a complete majority in parliament; subsequent coalition-making negotiations would likely be a drawn-out process.
6. In 2013, Iraq’s death toll reached the highest since 2007 —the height of the country’s sectarian insurgency; the U.N. estimated that at least 7,818 civilians and 1,050 security forces died. Already in 2014, more than 2,000 have been killed in fighting.
A man mourns over the flag-draped coffin of his son on April 26, 2014.
7. This week, at least 160 people were killed in Iraq, BBC reported. Critics allege that Maliki’s heavy-handed rule and administration’s persisting corruption has enabled Iraq’s worsening sectarian violence, political polarization, and economic divides.
Civilians inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood on April 9, 2014.
8. The day of elections, tensions were high. There was a heavy security presence throughout the country; the government deployed hundreds of thousands of soldiers to protect polling stations and imposed a vehicle ban in Baghdad.
9. In Anbar, where the jihadist Islamist State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has a heavy presence, only 70% of polling stations were open. Voting was also limited in nearby Ramadi, where largely Sunni militias have been battling Iraqi troops and Shai militias.
Electoral workers count ballots as polls close at a polling center in Baghdad.
10. Despite the risks, these Iraqis came out to vote today, their ink-stained fingers a temporary testament.
An Iraqi Kurdish woman shows her ink-stained finger after voting at a polling station in Irbil, north of Baghdad.
An Iraqi elderly woman inside a polling station for parliamentary elections in Baghdad.
A man and his wife show their inked fingers in Baghdad.
An elderly Iraqi woman after casting her vote inside a Baghdad polling station.
An elderly Iraqi man in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, southeast of Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote.
Women make ink-stained victory signs at a polling center in Baghdad.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — one of the candidates — shows an ink-stained finger after casting his vote at a polling station in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad.
An Iraqi family after voting in Baghdad. Even the children came for ink-stained fingers.
An elderly Iraqi woman outside a polling station in Habaniyah town, near Fallujah, Iraq.
An Iraqi woman inside a polling station for parliamentary elections in Baghdad.
An Iraqi woman after casting her vote at a polling center in Baghdad.
An Iraqi man in Baghdad’s Sadr City district.
Governor of Kirkuk Najm al-Din Omar Karim (right) and his wife after casting their votes.
Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani at a voting station in Salah al-Din resort, Irbil, north of Baghdad.
An Iraqi woman casts her vote in Baghdad.
An Iraqi family show their inked fingers after casting votes in Baghdad.
An elderly man after casting his ballot at a polling center in the upscale Mansour Sunni district of Baghdad.