Al-Maliki front runner after poll
Baghdad – Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki emerged on Monday as the front-runner after Iraq's general election, according to estimates AFP obtained from local officials across the country.
The key estimates from the Baghdad region, whose results could swing the election, were not yet available.
Maliki, the Shi’ite head of the State of Law Alliance, was leading in Shi’ite regions while Allawi, a former premier who heads the secular Iraqiya list, was ahead in Sunni areas, according to the unofficial estimates.
Maliki's State of Law Alliance was in pole position in the nine Shi’ite provinces of the south while Iraqiya was ahead in the Sunni majority provinces north or west of Baghdad, according to the estimates.
Iraqiya was in second place in three Shi’ite provinces but in third place in six others, behind the Iraqi National Alliance that is dominated by two Shi’ite religious parties and includes ex-deputy premier Ahmed Chalabi.
Ethnically mixed province
In the ethnically mixed and disputed province of Kirkuk, the Kurdistani list, a joint slate composed of the northern Iraqi region's two dominant parties, was leading, followed by Allawi's list.
Initial official results from Sunday's key election were not due until Thursday, with full election results expected around March 18. These then have to be certified by the supreme court at the end of the month.
After that it will likely take at least a couple of months of horsetrading before a new government is formed as no single political bloc is set to emerge dominant from the vote.
Iraq's general election saw a strong turnout of at least 50 percent in most areas, according to initial forecasts, after the ballot was marred by rocket, mortar and bomb attacks that killed 38 people.
Millions voted in the poll, winning international praise for their courage and determination in a crunch test of the war-shattered nation's young democracy less than six months before American combat troops quit the country.
US President Barack Obama paid tribute to all those who cast ballots in the nationwide poll on Sunday, the second parliamentary election since US-led forces ousted dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.