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Ballot Counting Begins in Iraq Parliament Vote


Voting has ended in Iraq, as voters went to the polls to select a full term, four-year National Assembly. Election officials estimate the turnout was high, with little violence reported.

Children rode bikes and played soccer in empty streets, while American helicopters circled overhead. The government banned all traffic from Iraq's roads to better ease the security burden on the more than 160,000 American soldiers and 120,000 Iraqi police and army patrolling the country.

At stake in the elections are 275 seats in the country's National Assembly. For the first time this year, Sunni Muslim voters participated in large numbers, with some insurgent groups vowing to protect them as they went to the polls.

Sunnis largely boycotted Iraq's first election on January 30 of this year. That left them almost powerless in the present government, and at a severe disadvantage for adding their voice to the country's constitution, which was written and approved during the past year.

Because of heavy turnout, election officials decided late in the day to extend voting time by one hour.

It may take several weeks for the final election results to be known, but Iraq's law mandates that the new assembly be in place by December 31.

Then, the political horse trading will begin as the new assembly's various individuals and coalitions select a new prime minister and president.

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