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Page last updated at 09:45 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Votes being counted in Iraq election

Iraqi vote counting
Iraqi vote counters wait for ballot boxes to be opened in Baghdad

Counting is under way in Iraq's elections, with preliminary results expected in several days.

Turnout was reported to have been higher than expected but the polls were marred by violence, with dozens killed in mortar and bomb attacks.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's State of Law Coalition is widely expected to win the most seats.

But it is unlikely one party will form a government alone and there may be months of negotiations on a coalition.

The final official results will not be declared until the end of March, though preliminary results are expected in two or three days.

But unnamed Iraqi officials told the news agency AFP that Mr Maliki was leading in nine of Iraq's 18 provinces.

Alienation fears

Mr Maliki faces competition from the Shia-dominated Iraq National Alliance and the secular coalition of former prime minister Iyad Allawi.

IRAQI GENERAL ELECTION
Voting to elect 325-member parliament.
About 19 million eligible voters out of 28 million
Around 6,200 candidates from 86 factions competing
200,000 security personnel on duty in Baghdad
Key issues: Security, services and disqualification of alleged Baathists
Previous votes: Jan 2005 (transitional national assembly), Oct 2005 (constitution), Dec 2005 first post-invasion parliament, Feb 2009 (local elections)

Although no official figures have been released, reports said voter turnout was high, especially in Anbar province, where Sunnis had boycotted the 2005 elections.

The turnout is seen as a barometer of Sunni political feeling.

There had been fears that Sunnis might stay away, amid feelings of widespread alienation.

Some 500 candidates, mostly Sunnis, were banned from running because of their alleged connections to the banned Baath party of former leader Saddam Hussein.

At least 35 people were killed in bomb attacks in Baghdad, while there were also attacks in Mosul, Falluja, Baquba and Samarra.

US President Barack Obama hailed the election on Sunday, calling it a "milestone" in Iraq's history.

"Today's voting makes it clear that the future of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq," Mr Obama said.

Attacks

But there were outbreaks of violence.

The day started with mortar attacks in Baghdad.

Other similar attacks followed in other cities.

The most deadly strike was on an apartment block which collapsed, killing 25 people.

Rescue workers dug through the rubble using their hands and diggers in an attempt to rescue people.

As they dug, the sound of a woman screaming could be heard. Rescuers reached her after several hours and she was taken to hospital.

The attacks came despite the 200,000 police on high alert manning checkpoints around the country.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Yahoo! UK and Ireland Turnout for Iraq election solid at 62 percent - 8 hrs ago
Guardian.co.uk Iraq after the elections: Slogging towards stability | Editorial - 11 hrs ago
Times Online Sunnis brave violence to have their say - 12 hrs ago
Reuters UK Turnout for Iraq election solid at 62 pct - 13 hrs ago
Mail Online UK At least 38 killed but Iraq's voters defy the bombers - 36 hrs ago


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