Iraqi PM leads Baghdad elections


A list led by Shia prime minister Nuri al-Maliki had a wide lead in Baghdad, a key prize in Iraq's parliamentary election, preliminary results posted by Iraq's electoral commission showed today.

A Shia coalition with close ties to Tehran, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), trailed Mr al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, followed closely by former prime minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya list, a secularist, cross-sectarian group.

Final results from the March 7th polls may take weeks. Baghdad will have 68 seats in the 325-seat Iraqi parliament.

The country's rival political blocs yesterday levelled allegations of fraud at the election commission.

Intisar Allawi, a candidate for the Iraqiya party, charged that “there were persons who manipulated or changed the figures in favour of the State of Law alliance” headed by incumbent Mr al-Maliki.

She said Iraqiya’s election observers had found ballot papers discarded in garbage bags in the northern province of Tamim (Kirkuk) where the dominant Kurdish bloc may have taken as many as eight out of 12 seats.

A member of the Kurdish opposition Goran (“Change”) movement said its observers had been ousted early from polling stations while busloads of bloc backers were brought in to vote.

The Shia fundamentalist slate, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), registered a similar complaint about its monitors being ordered out of polling stations in southern provinces. The INA dismissed early returns from the Shia holy city of Najaf giving 47 per cent of the vote to Mr Maliki’s list.

The INA argues its candidates should have secured a higher percentage of the vote because the bloc’s leading factions are headed by Ammar al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr, Shia clerics whose forebears shaped the politics of Najaf for more than half a century.

The INA intends to launch a major challenge to results from Baghdad if it does not gain a substantial number of seats there, particularly in the Sadr City area, which could be expected to vote for Mr Sadr whose social movement and al-Mahdi army militia have ruled the quarter’s two million inhabitants since 2003.

Iraqi interior minister Jawad Bolani admitted that some political parties had exerted pressure on early voters and committed violations when ballot boxes were being transferred from polling stations to counting centres.

He observed that such violations could distort the results and said evidence had been given to the election commission.

Additional reporting by Reuters