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Vote Counting Underway in Iraq


Iraqi officials are counting votes from Sunday's parliamentary election. Despite a series of attacks that left more than 30 people dead, the vote is being hailed as a general success.

Officials started the task of tallying the ballots shortly after the polls closed Sunday. The job is complicated by a large number of overseas voters, as well as people displaced from their homes during years of sectarian violence.

Abbas Kadhim, who is with the Independent High Electoral Commission in Baghdad, says there is still a lot to do.

"We have had received the ballots boxes of the absentee and the movement of people so we are now waiting for the matching stage when we match the forms of the ballot boxes with the forms we have," he said.

Preliminary, unofficial results indicated a strong showing by the centrist coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But no matter who wins, it is likely they will have to reach out to other groups to form a government.

While Iraq still has a long way to go before it reaches stability, there is a certain sense of satisfaction in how the elections were conducted. Despite a string of attacks early Sunday, mainly in Baghdad, insurgents were not able to carry out the massive strikes they had threatened.

A Baghdad voter is searched before entering a polling station, 07 Mar 2010

A Baghdad voter is searched before entering a polling station, 07 Mar 2010

If anything, voters seemed to embrace the election as a show of defiance against insurgent violence.

Baghdad voter Yahya Karim said the elections were like a big wedding. Iraqis were able to express their opinions, he said, adding, this represents a wonderful democracy.

Whether the results solidify a trend of more nationalist, secular politics over sectarian divisions, the new government will have the challenge of taking full responsibility for the country's security.

U.S. Army Sergeant Jeremy Tormala, on his second tour of duty in Iraq, thought the elections gave a good indication that Iraqi forces will be up to the task.

"The way they were blocking off all the streets with their security forces were pretty outstanding. So especially with the elections results, how that turned out, I was pretty impressed by it," he said. "I think they will be able to stand on their own. They have made a lot of improvements especially since my last time over here. They have made big jumps," said Tomala.

Fifty-thousand U.S. troops will leave the country at the end of August, with the remaining 50,000 withdrawing by the end of next year.

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