Al-Maliki leads Iraq vote in two provinces
Baghdad, March 11, 2010
Preliminary results from Iraq's national election began to trickle in on Thursday, showing Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki ahead in the country's largely Shi'ite south.
Preliminary results from the electoral commission, the first to be released, showed Al-Maliki ahead in Najaf and Babil provinces south of Baghdad. But full initial results from across Iraq's 18 provinces, including areas where support is expected to be strong for Al-Maliki's rivals, were still unknown four days after a national election Iraqis hoped would bring stable government and help end years of sectarian conflict as US troops ready to leave.
Officials at Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said full initial results, which are to be made public when 30 percent of the vote is counted, may be released later on Thursday. Final results may take weeks.
They are anxiously awaited by foreign oil companies making plans to invest billions of dollars and vault Iraq into the top echelon of global producers, and by Washington policymakers as the United States prepares to formally end combat operations by the end of August and leave the country before 2012.
The IHEC results showed Al-Maliki's State of Law coalition with 124,734 votes in the two provinces with at least 30 percent of votes counted, followed by 103,583 for a mainly Shi'ite rival, the Iraqi National Alliance.
A secular, cross-sectarian list headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi got 40,916 votes. That list is expected to do well in Sunni areas in north and western Iraq.
A clear victory by any of the blocs is unlikely and negotiations to form a coalition government could take months, leaving the possibility of a dangerous political vacuum.
Sixty-two percent of Iraq's nearly 19 million voters turned out at the polls on Sunday despite death threats from the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and a spate of election-day attacks by Sunni Islamist insurgents that killed 39 people.
Al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, an alliance of his Dawa party and some Sunni tribal leaders, Shi'ite Kurds, Christians and independents, led in Baghdad, the biggest electoral prize with about 8 million people, according to informal tallies. State of Law was the big winner in January 2009 provincial elections and campaigned on a platform of improved security and strong central government.
Even if Al-Maliki allies make up the biggest bloc in Iraq's next parliament, they will have to unite with one or two other coalitions to form a government, and Al-Maliki may face challenges from coalition partners opposed to giving him a second term. - Reuters