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Iraqi Provincial Elections Shed New Light on Country’s Political Progress

Saturday's provincial elections in Iraq went relatively smoothly with more than 7 million Iraqis -- roughly half of all voters -- participating. Analysts examine what the poll says about Iraq's political system and its readiness to govern when U.S. troops depart.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Saturday's provincial elections in Iraq went off with barely a hitch, as more than 7 million Iraqis, roughly half of all voters, turned out.

  • NABILA AL-YASS (through translator):

    Thanks be to God, the elections were successful. They have passed peacefully.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Fourteen thousand candidates campaigned for 440 seats on the provincial councils, similar to U.S. state legislatures. The campaign saw candidates going door to door, plastering posters up around neighborhoods, even creating Facebook pages on the Internet.

    Most of Iraq's political parties were on the ballot. Even Sunni parties and voters who boycotted national elections in 2005 took part this time. There was one exception: no voting in the three Kurdish provinces in the north or the ethnically divided city of Kirkuk.

    Election day in the other 14 provinces was largely peaceful. There was extraordinary security, much of it carried out by Iraqi forces. Driving was banned in most areas to prevent suicide attacks. There were some complaints of people being turned away from polling stations.

    WISSAM AL-BAYATI, Iraqi lawmaker (through translator): The democratic process conducted on Saturday was incomplete. The displaced people didn't cast their votes because they didn't find their names in the voters' record.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But international observers said the elections seemed free and fair.

    STAFFAN DE MISTURA, United Nations envoy to Iraq: What I've seen has been a good organization, a good attendance, and a good system of implementing all the items and the rules of an election.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Votes are still being tallied, but early returns suggested strong support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party, among others. Final results are expected in the coming days.

    In an NBC interview aired this morning, President Obama said the election showed Iraq was increasingly able to manage on its own.

  • U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    I think that we have a sense, now that Iraq just had a very significant election with no significant violence there, that we are in a position to start putting more responsibility on the Iraqis. And that's good news for not only the troops in the field, but their families who are carrying an enormous burden.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But in Washington today came a reminder that all is not progress in Iraq. The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction said a great deal of the $51 billion rebuilding program there had been wasted due to mismanagement and corruption.