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In provincial vote, Iraqis redraw political landsape

By Jane ArrafCorrespondent / February 5, 2009



Baghdad

Baghdad – On Thursday afternoon in a Baghdad hotel built by Saddam Hussein, Iraqi election officials announced preliminary results of Saturday’s provincial election.

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The outcome is no surprise. But the announcement confirmed that Iraqis did indeed redraw the country's political landscape. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose victory was fairly clear by early returns and was reported by the Monitor, appears to have been rewarded for bringing security to the south. His Dawa Party won by a landslide across most of the south.

Mr. Malaki, who had been fighting for his political life early last year, sent the Iraqi Army into Basra in March to fight Shiite militias in a risky move, which some said was designed to weaken Dawa’s rivals ahead of the election.

In Iraq's north the most dramatic results installed a new Sunni Arab party, al-Hadba, to take charge of the provincial council after winning almost 50 percent. The council had previously been overwhelmingly dominated by Kurds, who have vowed not to work with the leader of al-Hadba, who is seen as anti-Kurdish.

The results, with 90 percent of the votes counted, could defuse a potentially violent dispute over the elections in Anbar Province. Leaders of the Sahwat – otherwise known as the Awakening Movement that defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq-linked insurgents – had threatened bloodshed if the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) came in first. In the end, IIP came in third in Anbar, after the Awakening candidates.

Voting, held in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, took place under very heavy security and with very little violence. Turnout across the country – 51 percent – though was considerably lower though than expected.

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