Initial results from Iraq's March 7th parliamentary election put Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's coalition in the lead in Baghdad and Shi'ite provinces to the south, as well as in oil-rich Basra Province.
It was another day of waiting for anxious Iraqis, as the country's electoral commission continued to slowly tabulate votes from a parliamentary election one week ago. More than 50 percent of the vote has now been counted in three provinces, while partial results of less than 30 percent were being reported elsewhere.
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki continues to top the vote count in Baghdad and three mostly Shi'ite southern provinces, including Basra.
But former prime minister Iyad Allawi is far ahead in predominantly sunni Anbar province and the ethnically divided northern city of Kirkuk. A Kurdish alliance leads the vote in Kurdistan's Dahuk province.
Officials from Iraq's High Electoral Commission gave partial updates on the vote count throughout the day to Iraqi and Arab satellite TV channels. Spokesman Qassem al Abboudi promised to have 60 percent of the vote counted by Monday.
Electoral Commission chief Faraj al Haidari stated flatly that there were "no technical glitches" slowing the vote count and defended the process, despite repeated complaints of irregularities. He says more local and international election monitors are observing the vote count in Iraq than in any other country's elections, and he insists that there is greater transparency in Iraq's election than anywhere else. Everyone, he argues, knows that to be true.
A handful of Sunni and Kurdish politicians allege there were voting fraud and irregularities in various parts of the country.
Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, whose secular coalition continues to trail that of Prime Minister Maliki's in the key electoral district of Baghdad, said once the initial results are announced, he is ready to talk with other like-minded political blocs. He says that he expects initial results to be announced within two or three days, at which point he is ready to form an alliance with all parties that share his political values and in order to serve the best interests of the country.
Member of parliament Abbas Bayati, a Maliki ally, told journalists "the prime minister's strong showing in the election proves that he deserves to keep his job."
But any of several candidates could deny Mr. Maliki the position, even if he won a plurality of votes.
One Baghdad resident expressed optimism the election is a success, no matter which candidate ultimately becomes prime minister. He says that whatever happens is the result of the people's will as reflected at the ballot-box. Whether Mr. Maliki gets to be prime minister, or anyone else, this is the will of the people.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill and other top officials have stressed that the formation of a new Iraqi government "could take weeks."