Iraq PM takes poll lead in key province
March 14, 2010 · Posted in NEWS
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s bloc built on its gains in Iraq’s parliamentary election, initial results showed on Sunday, as he took a comfortable lead in the key province of Basra.

In northern Iraq, the country’s Kurds also appeared to be voting for more of the same, with the traditional parties holding off a new challenger.

Though the figures remain far from complete, Maliki’s State of Law Alliance has taken strong leads in two of Iraq’s three biggest constituencies, and remains ahead in six provinces overall.

The results from Iraq’s second parliamentary election since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003, come less than six months ahead of a US downsizing which will see all American combat troops leave the country by the end of August.

Figures released on Sunday also showed, however, that secular ex-premier Iyad Allawi, a Shiite like Maliki, was ahead in the Sunni bastion of Anbar, the fourth province in which Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc has a lead.

According to the latest results, State of Law held a lead of around 100,000 votes in Basra, with the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a coalition led by Shiite religious groups, coming in second. Iraqiya was a distant third.

Basra, a predominantly Shiite southern province, accounts for 24 parliamentary seats in the 325-member Council of Representatives, behind only Baghdad, which has 70 seats, and Nineveh in northern Iraq with 34.

Sunday’s news comes a day after initial figures put Maliki comfortably in the lead in Baghdad, with INA and Iraqiya neck-and-neck for second place in the election’s main prize.

Along with Basra and Baghdad, State of Law was also ahead in the southern Shiite provinces of Babil, Najaf, Karbala and Muthanna, while INA leads in Maysan and Diwaniyah, also mostly Shiite southern provinces.

Iraq’s election commission announced on Sunday that Iraqiya had a strong lead in Anbar, Iraq’s biggest province by geography and the centre of a bloody insurgency in the early years of the US-led occupation.

Elsewhere, Iraqiya leads in Nineveh and the mostly Sunni central provinces of Diyala and Salaheddin.

Iraq’s proportional representation electoral system makes it unlikely that any single grouping will clinch the 163 seats needed to form a government on its own, and analysts expect protracted coalition building.

Meanwhile, Kurdistania, an alliance of the Kurdish autonomous region’s two long-dominant parties, held off a new challenger in the northern Iraqi province of Dohuk, in the early results.

Kurdistania, comprised of regional president Massud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, secured 170,690 votes.

The alliance was followed by the Etihad Islamic Union with 31,053 votes and the new party Goran (“Change” in Kurdish) with 12,570, in the contest for Iraq’s northernmost province and its 11 seats in parliament.

Earlier figures also put Kurdistania ahead in the region’s Arbil province, the seat of an Iraqi Kurdish regional government.

Complete results from the Iraqi election are expected on March 18 and the final ones — after any appeals are dealt with — will likely come at the end of the month.