BAGHDAD: A coalition led by Iraq’s prime minister has won the largest single bloc of seats in seven of 12 provinces participating in local elections, and tied in an eighth, although it failed to achieve a majority in any of the districts, electoral officials announced on Saturday.
Last month’s vote was for seats on local-level governorate councils and has no direct effect on the country’s national posts.
But the results do offer an important glimpse into levels of support for the country’s political blocs heading into next year’s parliamentary elections.
The results released on Saturday by members of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission at a Baghdad hotel showed little change to preliminary results released last week.
Thousands of candidates from 50 electoral blocs vied for 378 seats on the provincial councils.
Election officials reported that 51 per cent of the 13.8 million eligible voters cast ballots — the same turnout as during the last provincial elections in 2009.
Crucially, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s State of Law coalition was the top vote-getter in Baghdad and in the southern oil hub of Basra.
In Baghdad, Maliki’s coalition took 20 seats of the 58 seats, followed by 11 for Shiite followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada Al Sadr.
The Sunni parliament speaker Osama Al Nujaifi’s bloc trailed them with seven seats.
Maliki’s State of Law also won the most seats of any bloc in Diwaniyah, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Karbala and Babil provinces.
In Wasit province, southeast of Baghdad, State of Law and Shiite rival the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council each took seven seats.
Sadr’s bloc took the most seats in the southern Shiite province of Maysan, the only area where it currently holds the governorship.
Baghdad-based political analyst Hadi Jalo said State of Law’s first-place showing in Baghdad and the Shiite dominated south was not surprising.
But he said a drop in support for the bloc in some areas could signal challenges for it ahead.
“Al-Maliki’s people could not achieve a comfortable majority, and this is an indication that they will face more difficulties in winning a third term in the upcoming general elections next year,” he said.
That will force him to rely more on more religious Shiite parties as well as the Kurds to keep his post, Jalo predicted.
A provincial-level coalition gained the most seats in the Shiite province of Najaf.
Local coalitions also took the largest chunk of seats in the largely Sunni province of Salahuddin and the mixed province of Diyala.
The secular but Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc headed by Shiite politician Ayad Allawi had a disappointing showing, picking up no more than three seats in any of the provinces.