[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 16 December 2005, 06:19 GMT
Long count starts after Iraq poll
Voters in Basra
Voters had their fingerprints taken to guard against multiple voting
Counting is under way in Iraq after a landmark parliamentary election, which has been hailed by many as a success for its reportedly high turnout.

Results are not expected for at least two weeks after which the country's first full-term post-war government will be appointed.

US President George W Bush described the vote as "historic".

Voting was extended in many parts as large numbers of Sunni Arabs took part after boycotting previous elections.

There were several violent incidents reported, including some mortar and rocket attacks, but voting was not seriously disrupted.

Future stability

Election officials reported high turnouts even in Sunni insurgent strongholds such as Falluja and Ramadi.

The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said the process had gone very well "so far" and urged all Iraqis to accept the results of the voting.

275-seat National Assembly will have four-year term
18 provinces are taken as separate constituencies
230 seats allocated according to size of population
45 seats distributed to parties whose ethnic, religious or political support is spread over more than one province
Some 15 million eligible to vote
One third of candidates in each party must be women

The vote will elect 275 members of a national parliament, who will in turn appoint a president in line with the country's constitution, adopted in October's referendum.

Speaking to the BBC's Newsnight programme, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he hoped Iraq's political parties would not squabble over appointing a government, as they did earlier this year.

He praised the country's permanent constitution, saying it offered a framework for constructive politics, and insisted the fight against insurgents was being won.

Presidential joy

The voting took place amid a massive security operation. About 150,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers were on patrol across the country, backed up by US soldiers. Borders and airports were closed.

Voters are checked by security before entering a polling station in Baghdad

In Washington, Mr Bush appeared delighted by reports that turnout had increased throughout the day, with lengthy queues of people waiting to vote.

"There's a lot of joy, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

"We're certain that the turnout was high and that the violence was down."

Sunni nationalist insurgent groups had urged people to vote to prevent the election of a government completely dominated by Shias and Kurds.

However, the al-Qaeda in Iraq group denounced the election as the work of Satan and threatened attacks. Two civilians and a US marine were slightly injured in morning attacks.

'Day of victory'

Some 15 million Iraqis were eligible to vote.

"It's a day of victory, a day of independence and freedom," said 60-year-old Shia Muslim Mohammed Ahmed al-Bayati as he voted in Baghdad.

It is a moral victory for the exploited Iraqis and a big victory for human liberty
Debu, Delhi, India

Teacher Khalid Fawaz in Falluja said he was voting "so that the Sunnis are no longer marginalised".

Crowds turned out in Basra, the largest city in the Shia-dominated south, as well as the holy city of Najaf, dancing and chanting support for the alliance of religious Shia parties which is expected to win the largest number of seats.

BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson in Baghdad says the voters he spoke to believe the election will help to bring about a strong, effective government of the kind Iraqis are desperate for.

The new national assembly will replace the transitional government elected in January, and will serve a full four-year term.

Some 6,655 candidates, 307 parties and 19 coalitions registered for the ballot, electoral officials say.

Watch Iraqis explaining why they voted

In pictures: Iraq election
15 Dec 05 |  In Pictures


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific