March 15th, 2010
08:38 PM ET

Iraqi PM maintains lead in early election results

Preliminary election results released Monday showed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's alliance ahead in seven provinces, a slim lead over the next closest group, according to the electoral commission.

More than 60 percent of votes in Iraq's 18 provinces have been tallied, the Independent High Electoral Commission said.

Al-Maliki's State of Law alliance maintained its lead in seven Iraqi provinces, including Baghdad, where the most parliamentary seats - 68 out of 325 - are up for grabs.

Trailing close behind in the latest results was al-Iraqia, a coalition led by former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite. Results show al-Iraqia ahead in five provinces - predominantly Sunni regions. Allawi was trailing al-Maliki by 50,000 votes in Baghdad, the electoral commission said.The mostly Shiite Iraqi National Alliance was ahead in three provinces, according to the electoral commission. The coalition, which is backed by the country's predominantly Shiite neighbor, Iran, includes controversial secular politician Ahmed Chalabi. It is made up of some of Iraq's top Shiite religious parties and includes followers of anti-American radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

About 6,200 candidates from more than 80 political entities are vying for 325 seats in the Council of Representatives, or the parliament.

Despite his lead with 66 percent of results tallied, a parliamentary majority or another term for al-Maliki as prime minister is not guaranteed. The political coalition that ends up with the most seats in parliament will put forward a candidate for prime minister.

All results released Monday were preliminary.

The electoral commission is expected to release more results Tuesday for 85 percent of the vote in each province. Full results are expected to be released at the end of March.

Millions of Iraqis defied the threat of violence March 7 to cast ballots in the parliamentary elections. Nearly two out of three eligible voters turned out. Some 38 people were killed in attacks on voting day.

- CNN's Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.



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