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Iraqi PM's coalition takes early lead in Baghdad poll

Rania El Gamal in BAGHDAD

Published 14/03/2010 | 05:00

THE coalition of Shia prime minister Nuri al-Maliki held a wide lead yesterday in early results from Baghdad, the major prize in elections Iraqis hope will stabilise a nation riven by years of sectarian warfare.

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The Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a fellow Shia bloc with close ties to Iran, trailed by 50,000 votes with just 18 per cent of the count completed in Baghdad. The capital city is worth twice as many seats in parliament as the next largest province.

The secularist, cross-sectarian Iraqiya List, headed by former prime minister Iyad Allawi, was a close third in Baghdad.

With early results representing only a fraction of the vote and no figures in from areas like the southern oil-hub Basra, overall results were too close to call six days after the vote.

Politicians promised the election would bring better governance and security as the US prepares to end combat operations seven years after ousting Saddam Hussein.

But the margins tallied so far suggest weeks or months of horse-trading ahead to form a government and pick a prime minister.

After the last elections in 2005, sectarian violence erupted as politicians took months to form a government.

Political analyst Hazem al-Nuaimi cautioned against reading too much into Baghdad results because it was unclear which parts of the largely segregated city the early votes represent.

"It is clear that the final votes will be distributed among the blocs closely," Mr Nuaimi said. "This means there will no winning bloc with a big margin."

Sunday Independent

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