Iraq

Baghdad Holds Key as Iraq Awaits Initial Vote Results

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Iraq awaited initial results Tuesday from polls touted as a test of its young democracy, with Baghdad holding the key as the prime minister’s list.

Thirty percent of votes were due to be counted by the evening, giving Iraq’s

 complex range of political blocs their first official indication of how they fared in the second general election since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein.

 

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki emerged Monday as the front-runner, according to estimates AFP obtained from officials across the country. But he could yet face a tough battle to cling to power after the vote on Sunday that saw millions defy bomb, mortar and rocket attacks which killed 38 people to cast their ballots.

Estimates of early trends in the Baghdad region, which with its 70 parliamentary seats could swing the result of the vote, are not yet available. However, officials said on Monday that Maliki’s political bloc was leading the count in nine of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

His State of Law Alliance was ahead in Muslim Shiite regions, while United States and Saudia Arabia backed Saddam loyalist Iyad Allawi, a former premier who heads the Baathist Alliance al-Iraqiya list, led in Five Sunni Province, according to estimates AFP and other news agencies obtained from officials across the country.

The complete results will be announced on March 18 and the final official results – after any appeals are taken into account – will come at the end of the month. Months of horse-trading are then likely before a new government is formed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition has claimed it is leading in the country’s parliamentary election, according to preliminary results.

The State of Law’s representatives say the coalition had come up trumps in Baghdad and the Shia south, the coalition’s Abbas al-Bayati was quoted as saying by the Associated Press early on Tuesday morning.

“We think that the State of Law coalition will shoulder the task of forming the next government,” he said.

The other leading Alliance is the Shia parties Iraq National Alliance, dominated by two Shiite religious parties – the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the movement of leader Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr, who led two uprisings against US occupation troops. Overall voter turnout on Sunday was officially given at 62.4 percent.

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