Preliminary results in Iraq’s first parliamentary elections since 2003 began to trickle in Thursday, with current Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki leading in two provinces in the south and a secular challenger ahead in two northern provinces.
The prime minister’s bloc was ahead in Babil and Najaf in the largely Shiite south, reported the Associated Press, while the secular coalition led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi surged in two former insurgent stronghold-provinces north of Baghdad, ethnically mixed Diyala and primarily Sunni Salahuddin.
Al-Maliki refashioned his party into a coalition called the State of Law last year, trying to recast himself “as a secular, nationalist leader representing all of Iraq” and downplaying the party’s Shiite roots, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace describes in its Iraqi election explainer.
But Thursday’s early results also came with allegations of widespread voter fraud by members of Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, who cited widespread issues including ballots that were discovered in the garbage.
“We have recorded dozens of violations and there is interference from some officials,” said Adnan al-Janabi, a senior member of the Iraqiya bloc, reported Reuters.
The Iraqi National Alliance, Iraq’s top Shiite religious coalition, which came in second to al-Maliki in the two reporting southern provinces, also challenged the transparency of the ballot counting and the computerized system that calculates the vote, reported the New York Times.
The day’s results were the first officially released since the Sunday vote. A full count from Iraq’s 18 provinces could take weeks, according to officials at Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission, but an initial result could be possible as early as late Thursday, once 30 percent of the vote is counted.
“The results are very tentative,” Brian Katulis, a senior fellow on security policy and the Middle East at the Center for American Progress told the PBS NewsHour. “We won’t get a clearer picture of who’s emerged on top until a few more days. We won’t have certainty for a few more weeks. We just don’t know yet.”