BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Preliminary results of Iraq’s parliamentary election, a vote seen as a litmus test of its young democracy, are likely to be released by Thursday, a United Nations official said on Wednesday.
Iraqi electoral officials, who had previously suggested the first count might be made public on Wednesday, did not immediately confirm the timeline given by the United Nations.
A decisive victory by any political coalition is unlikely in an election Iraqis hope will bring a measure of stability after years of sectarian warfare as U.S. troops prepare to pull out. Negotiations to form a new government could take months.
Ad Melkert, the U.N. special representative to Iraq, told a news conference the vote count was proceeding at a good pace and first results were likely to be announced by Thursday.
Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission, whose top official was sitting beside Melkert, has said it will publish preliminary results when 30 percent of votes have been counted. “On the basis of the information that I have received this morning I am confident that it will be possible by tomorrow to have preliminary results announced,” Melkert said.
Informal tallies of Sunday’s vote for the 325-seat Iraqi parliament showed that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law list fared well in Baghdad and Shi’ite southern provinces.
A member of his coalition said he expected State of Law to be the biggest bloc in the next parliament but that it would need to form an alliance with one or two other lists.
A secular, cross-sectarian line-up led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi appeared to be polling well in Sunni areas of the north and west, according to the informal tallies. “This is an honest process and that’s why it is very important that the announcement of the preliminary results will be accepted by all,” Melkert said. “I think it’s fair to say the world has been impressed by the professional way that these elections have taken place.”
Turnout was 62 percent, higher than in last year’s provincial election, despite a spate of insurgent attacks that killed 39 people, all but one of them in Baghdad, on voting day.
The U.S. military, which stayed in the background while Iraqi security forces protected the election, praised the conduct of the vote and said the violence had been limited.
General Ray Odierno, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said plans were on track to reduce troop levels from 96,000 now to 50,000 by the end of August, ahead of a full withdrawal by end-2011.