WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama offered his congratulations to the Iraqi people for holding the country's first parliamentary elections since the U.S. military withdrew in 2011.
Despite concerns about election day violence, Iraqis cast ballots on Wednesday at some 50,000 polling centers across the country. The 328 parliamentary seats in contention were sought by 9,000 candidates.
"Millions of Iraqis embraced their democratic right to vote," Obama observed. "Yesterday's turnout demonstrated to the world that they seek to pursue a more stable and peaceful future through the political process."
Concerns about violence prompted authorities to lock down the capital city of Baghdad. No cars were permitted in the city in an effort to curb the possibility of suicide attacks and car bombings, forcing Baghdad residents to walk to polling stations.
BBC correspondent Rafid Jaboori reported that despite concerns about violence, the Iraqis he spoke to throughout the country said that they would not be deterred from voting on Wednesday.