Friday, February 20, 2009

PM Maliki's allies triumph in Iraq poll

Thu Feb 19, 12:36 pm ET BAGHDAD (AFP) – Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's allies triumphed in the January 31 provincial polls, final results showed on Thursday, boosting his position in war-battered Iraq after fiercely contested elections. Candidates backed by Maliki dominated in Baghdad and also won a majority in all nine of Iraq's Shiite provinces, in a huge vote of confidence for the premier whose standing has grown steadily at home and abroad in the past year. Just over half of Iraqis voted in the largely trouble-free elections, which were seen as a vital test of the country's progress since the US-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein from power almost six years ago. Maliki, a Shiite, did not stand in the provincial council polls but threw his backing behind State of Law Coalition candidates. The polls held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces were seen as a referendum on Maliki's performance. Polling is due to take place later in the three Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq and the disputed oil-rich region of Kirkuk. The councils, which serve for a four-year term, are now tasked with electing provincial governors and their two deputies within 30 days.

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