Turnout for Iraq election solid at 62 percent

Turnout in Iraq`s parliamentary poll was 62%, higher than in last year`s provincial ballot.

Baghdad: Turnout in Iraq`s parliamentary election was 62 percent, higher than in last year`s provincial ballot, despite attempts by Sunni Islamist insurgents to disrupt the vote with attacks that killed 39, officials said on Monday.
Preliminary results were not expected for another day or two in a poll that Iraqis sickened by violence hope will help bring better governance and stability after years of sectarian slaughter, and as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki`s State of Law bloc likely did well in the Shi`ite south while a secular, Sunni-Shi`ite alliance led by former premier Iyad Allawi appeared strong in Sunni areas in the north and west, informal tallies suggested.

The voter participation in excess of 60 percent was better than many had feared and indicated Iraqis were not deterred by blasts that thudded across the capital on election day. Iraqi officials blamed the explosions on mortar, rockets and roadside bombs, but U.S. military officials said many were caused by "noise bombs" consisting of explosives in plastic bottles.

"Those who love Iraq and its people were eager for the elections to succeed," Maliki said at a dinner for foreign election observers. "Those who love dictatorship and terrorism were opposed to holding what Iraqis saw as a celebration."

In provinces predominantly inhabited by the Sunni minority that ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein, turnout matched or exceeded the national average, according to Hamdiya al-Husseini of Iraq`s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).

That might reduce grounds for Sunnis to complain about their stake in Iraq`s nascent democracy seven years after the U.S.-led invasion deprived them of a privileged position under Saddam.

Electoral authorities cautioned politicians not to make premature statements about their performance. Even so, many did.

"The State of Law Coalition list is leading among other lists in Baghdad and other southern provinces," said Ali al-Dabbagh, government spokesman and State of Law candidate.

Lawmaker Haider al-Ebadi, a State of Law candidate and member of Maliki`s Dawa party, said initial results suggested the coalition was ahead in 10 provinces. "But the special voting and voters abroad, this has not been concluded yet and could alter the outcome," he said.

Bureau Report

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