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Iraq’s PM leads in early Baghdad vote count | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BAGHDAD (AP) – A coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was winning in the all-important capital and a Shiite province in the south, according to a partial tally of election results released Saturday.

If the Baghdad trend continues, the results would be a substantial boost to al-Maliki and his chances to retain the prime minister’s post. Baghdad accounts for 70 of the parliament’s 325 seats and would go a long way toward deciding who will be tasked with forming a government that will oversee the country as U.S. forces go home.

Al-Maliki has been ahead so far in preliminary results that have been trickling out from election officials since last Sunday’s vote.

Election officials Saturday also announced that the prime minister’s coalition was leading in Karbala, a Shiite province in southern Iraq where he has been battling his former political allies, the Iraqi National Alliance, a Shiite religious coalition with ties to Iran.

With the partial Baghdad results and the Karbala tally, the prime minister is now ahead in five of nine provinces where early results have been released. The Iraqiya coalition lead by Al-Maliki’s secular rival, Ayad Allawi, leads in two provinces, while Iraqi National Alliance is ahead in one.

A Kurdish coalition, as expected, is ahead in Irbil in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

The partial Baghdad results show al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition with almost 159,000 votes compared to about 108,000 for the INA. Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition was in third with about 105,000 votes.

It was not clear which of the capital’s neighborhoods were included in the count and whether the results were coming from across Baghdad, from the Shiite-dominated eastern part of the city or the Sunni-dominated western neighborhoods.

Results from the primarily Shiite-side of the city would likely benefit al-Maliki or his main Shiite rivals, the INA, while results from the Sunni-side could spell a boost for Iraqiya, which has drawn on Sunni support in many provinces.

It was also not clear exactly what percentage of the votes had been counted so far.

In Karbala, where only about 10 percent of the votes were tallied, the State of Law coalition had almost 16,000 votes compared to almost 7,000 for his closest rivals, the INA, and about 3,000 votes for Iraqiya.

Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission has struggled to release the election results in an organized fashion, and Saturday’s tally was no exception.

The Baghdad and Karbala counts were both posted on screens at the electoral commission’s Baghdad headquarters, and then pulled minutes later. After the tallies were removed from the screens, a quarrel immediately broke out between election officials before a commission spokeswoman, Gulshan Kamal Ali, confirmed the results were accurate.

Election officials have also battled computer crashes and demands for more information, more quickly. It was not clear whether other results would also be released Saturday, officials said.

The results portend what is likely to be a close race between State of Law, Iraqiya and the INA. No one coalition is expected to win an outright majority, forcing whoever wins the most seats to reach out to others to cobble together a government.

The Iraqi prime minister has already begun meeting with political rivals in early efforts to form a coalition government, a sign of his growing confidence in light of partial results.