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Counting underway in Iraq election

Counting underway in Iraq election
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Counting is underway in Iraq’s second full national election since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s coalition claims it is headed for victory in Baghdad and the Shi’ite south. But the stage is set for complaints with one of his opponents, former premier Iyad Allawi, alleging irregularities.

A high turnout was reported despite Islamist militants’ attempts to disrupt the ballot with violence.

“Iraqis went to the polling stations and challenged the rockets and explosions,” said one resident of the capital. “I call on the new government to keep the promises made by candidates. We want security and reconstruction.”

Attacks killed 38 people as voting took place in the ethnically and religiously divided country. But the bloodshed could have been much worse and, in the northern city of Kirkuk, Kurds expressed their satisfaction.

“The election this year is better than in previous years,” said a Kurdish man there. “Thank God the election was clean and quiet.”

Despite speculation and early celebrations, it is unlikely that any one party will be able to form a government alone. Preliminary results are not expected for another day or two with final official figures due later this month.

Iraq’s security situation remains crucial to President Obama’s timetable to bring all US forces home by the end of 2011.