Al-Maliki Party Leads in Early Iraq Vote Count

Iraqi poll officials have begun counting the votes from Sunday’s violence-ridden parliamentary elections. Reports said early results show Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s State of Law Alliance in the lead. Poll officials said the Maliki-led coalition is leading in half of the country’s 18 provinces.

Voters took to polling places on Sunday despite threat from rocket and mortar attacks, which resulted in the death of 38 people. Authorities estimated that more than 60 percent of the country’s qualified voters exercised their right of suffrage, a generally good turnout considering that it was only the second elections since a 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled the dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. President Barack Obama has praised Iraqis for showing “courage and resilience” in protecting the sanctity of their votes amid threats of violence.

AFP said early estimates by local leaders show Washington-ally Maliki’s party ahead in predominantly Shiite areas but former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya is leading in Sunni strongholds. Political observers believe no single party would win a majority of the 325-seat Parliament, which means that Iraq’s next government would most likely be a coalition among parties of different secular affiliations.