Friday 2 May 2014
Iraq's premier says he has enough support to keep his post, but with election results not due for weeks and parties bitterly divided, forming a government will probably take months.
Nuri al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term in office, will have to court disaffected parties within his own Shi'ite community, as well as Sunnis and Kurds who have angrily voiced opposition to his rule, but he expressed confidence following Wednesday's polls.
His remarks to journalists came as new figures showed April was among the bloodiest months since Iraq was embroiled in a brutal Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian war that left tens of thousands dead in 2006 and 2007.
The protracted surge in bloodshed, with more than 3000 people killed already this year, is among the long list of complaints, along with rampant corruption, high unemployment and what critics of the government say is insufficient improvement in public services.
Preliminary results from Wednesday's election are not expected for at least two weeks, but initial figures from the election commission show around 60 per cent of 20 million eligible voters had cast a ballot.
Turnout in the last election in 2010 was 62 per cent.
As was the case after previous elections, forming a government is likely to take months, but Maliki said on Thursday that he had the votes to put together a ruling coalition.
"We have confidence that we will achieve a political majority," he told reporters in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
However, he insisted he would not cling to the post.
While Maliki's bloc is tipped to win the most seats, no single party is expected to win a majority on its own and Iraq's various political alliances and communal groups will have to form coalitions.
Thursday 1 May 2014
Iraqis have defied a rash of attacks that killed 14 people and voted in the first general election since US troops withdrew, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki proclaiming "certain" victory.
Queues formed from early morning at tightly guarded polling stations, and turnout by midday on Wednesday was around 40 per cent, according to a diplomatic source.
Polls closed at 6pm (0100 AEST), and the election commission was expected to give overall turnout figures later in the evening.
In Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Iraqis had "courageously voted", sending "a powerful rebuke to the violent extremists who have tried to thwart the democratic process and sow discord in Iraq and throughout the region."
Iraqis complain of myriad grievances, from poor public services to rampant corruption and high unemployment, but the month-long campaign has hinged on Maliki's bid for a third term and dramatically deteriorating security.
The runup to the election, the first parliamentary poll since US forces departed in December 2011, has seen Baghdad and other major cities swamped in posters and bunting.
Parties have held rallies and candidates have angrily debated on television, but their appeals have largely been made on sectarian, ethnic or tribal grounds rather than political and social issues.
Analysts had expressed fears much of the electorate would stay at home rather than risk being targeted by militants, who killed nearly 90 people over the two previous days.
And fresh attacks were launched soon after polls opened, killing 14 people and wounding dozens.
Security officials reported more than 50 incidents in all, with mortar fire, roadside bombs and suicide attacks mostly targeting polling stations or people on their way to vote in the north and west.