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Iraq P.M.'s group wins largest bloc in several areas

By The Associated Press

This article was published May 4, 2013 at 1:21 p.m.

BAGHDAD — A coalition led by Iraq's prime minister has won the largest single bloc of seats in seven of 12 provinces participating in local elections, and tied in an eighth, although it failed to achieve a majority in any of the districts, electoral officials announced Saturday.

Last month's vote was for seats on local-level governorate councils and has no direct effect on the country's national posts. But the results do offer an important glimpse into levels of support for the country's political blocs heading into next year's parliamentary elections.

The results released Saturday by members of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission at a Baghdad hotel showed little change to preliminary results released last week.

Thousands of candidates from 50 electoral blocs vied for 378 seats on the provincial councils. Election officials reported that 51 percent of the 13.8 million eligible voters cast ballots — the same turnout as during the last provincial elections in 2009.

Crucially, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition was the top vote-getter in Baghdad and in the southern oil hub of Basra.

In Baghdad, al-Maliki's coalition took 20 seats of the 58 seats, followed by 11 for Shiite followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Sunni parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi's bloc trailed them with seven seats.

Al-Maliki's State of Law also won the most seats of any bloc in Diwaniyah, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Karbala and Babil provinces.

In Wasit province, southeast of Baghdad, State of Law and Shiite rival the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council each took seven seats.

Al-Sadr's bloc took the most seats in the southern Shiite province of Maysan, the only area where it currently holds the governorship.

Baghdad-based political analyst Hadi Jalo said State of Law's first-place showing in Baghdad and the Shiite dominated south was not surprising. But he said a drop in support for the bloc in some areas could signal challenges for it ahead.

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