March 20th, 2010
06:21 PM ET

Al-Maliki's bloc still ahead in Iraq province count

A secular bloc eased ahead Saturday in the overall count of votes in Iraq's parliamentary elections, although the prime minister's coalition remained in front with the lead in several provinces.

Despite the overall vote count, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition remained in the lead in seven of the country's 18 provinces, including Baghdad province, according to partial preliminary results released by the Independent High Electoral Commission.

Baghdad province, which includes the capital city, is the most populous, and offers 68 parliament seats of the 325-seat body.

But in the overall vote count, former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's al-Iraqia bloc has moved ahead by more than 7,000 votes, according to the partial preliminary results. Allawi's bloc holds the lead in five provinces.

The parliamentary seats will be distributed in each province through an allocation formula, not by popular vote.

The results released Friday are based on 92 percent of the votes counted from the March 7 election. The 92 percent is the national total - the percentage counted in each province varies.

Votes are still being tallied and the race is still too close to call. On Saturday, electoral commission spokesman Judge Qassim al-Aboodi said the complete preliminary results will be announced when the commission has finished evaluating the political blocs' complaints.

Election observers and the United Nations, which is assisting the electoral commission, have said that there were no signs of large scale fraud or vote manipulation.

But the top blocs, including State of Law, have alleged violations and fraud.

So far, the commission has looked at 1,150 complaints, with 829 remaining, al-Aboodi said. He said he expects the commission to finish examining the complaints either later Saturday or on Sunday.

He said the commission has canceled 57 polling stations for voting irregularities and another for a procedural violation.

Al-Aboodi said the canceled stations do not affect the turnout figures or results.

About 6,200 candidates from more than 80 political entities were on the ballot for seats in parliament.

Millions of Iraqis defied the threat of violence to cast ballots in the election, with nearly two out of three eligible voters turning out. At least 38 people were killed in attacks on voting day.

The preliminary partial results appear to show that Iraqis voted along sectarian lines. Allawi's secular Iraqia bloc appears to have won in provinces with large Sunni populations, including the volatile Nineveh province, which is allotted the second-largest share of parliamentary seats after Baghdad province.

Allawi, who served as prime minister in 2004, is a secular Shiite and his bloc includes prominent Sunni Arab politicians, such as Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.

The Shiite vote appeared largely divided between al-Maliki's State of Law alliance and the Iraqi National Alliance, the Iran-backed group that includes some of the country's top Shiite religious parties.

In the three provinces in Iraq's semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, Kurdish parties garnered most of the vote.

Although the bloc that wins the most seats in parliament will be tasked to form a government, it appears that none will garner at least 163 seats for a majority in the 325-member Council of Representatives. As the votes are tallied, politicians have been negotiating and talking to bolster post-election coalitions.

Unlike Iraq's last parliamentary vote, the country's Sunni Arab minority turned out in high numbers for the vote.

In 2005, they largely boycotted the election, and felt sidelined when a Shiite-led government emerged.

The results of the election helped fuel the insurgency, escalating a bloody sectarian war.

There are concerns that the results of the election could re-ignite sectarian violence, should the Sunnis again feel marginalized.

–CNN's Jomana Karadsheh and Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this report.

Filed under: Iraq • World
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Daniel

    Why am I not surprised? No matter who wins as long as they stay subserviant the United States and Great Britain,they'll get to rule as long as they like.No candidate will be allowed to win if he should be pro Iranian or a Sunni fundementalist.

    March 20, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |