Early reports suggest good turnout in Iraq polls


Early reports from polling stations show that turnout in Iraq's election could reach or exceed 50 per cent, political party officials said.

The election commission will release official figures later, but several parties have tried to keep track of the voting.

Planning Minister Mr Mehdi al-Hafedh said monitors for his secular Independent Democrats list had noted a high turnout in Baghdad despite a wave of suicide attacks on polling stations.

"The reports we are receiving indicate that the turnout will hit more than 50 per cent. Iraqis are looking at these elections as an issue of dignity" Mr Hafedh said. Turnout is expected to be overwhelming in Iraqi Kurdistan and the mostly Shia south, but in Sunni areas few are voting.

Mr Meshan al-Jiboury, a Sunni candidate from Mosul said low turnout in the Sunni areas was due to lack of security and functioning polling stations as well as calls for a boycott from some Sunni parties hostile to the US military presence.

Oil Minister Mr Thamir al-Ghadhban, a leading candidate in interim Prime Minister Mr Iyad Allawi's electoral list said his party's monitors were also reporting a big turnout. "We are seeing huge numbers across Iraq who want to defeat terror with their vote," he said. "I will not be surprised if turnout exceeds half."