Shiite Party Ahead in Six Iraqi Provinces

Partial election results from six of Iraq's 18 provinces showed the cleric-endorsed Shiite ticket running strongly for seats Thursday in the National Assembly.

The results came from 25 percent of the vote in Baghdad and from partial counts in five predominantly Shiite provinces, where the United Iraqi Alliance (search) had been expected to do well. The alliance had the backing of Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (search).

The partial results were too small, however, to show any national trend. They covered 1.6 million votes counted so far in Baghdad, Dhi Qar, Muthanna, Qadisiyah, Najaf and Karbala provinces. Of the six, sparsely populated Muthanna province had the most ballots tallied so far: 70 percent.

Meanwhile, incomplete results from eight of the 14 countries where Iraqis voted overseas showed Kurds doing well in Europe, where a large Kurdish community lives, while the Shiite ticket was the top in five countries.

The election commission has said it could take up to 10 days from Sunday's election to count the votes cast in Iraq, and Thursday's announcement of the count from the six provinces was the first of any partial returns.

The alliance had 1.1 million votes, running first in all six provinces, while the list of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) had 360,500 votes, running second.

In Baghdad, for example, the alliance was leading 3-1 over Allawi's list. But the commission did not say what districts in Baghdad the votes had come from. The alliance would presumably get fewer votes in areas with more Sunni or Kurdish populations. The other five provinces are in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq.

The commission said ballots have been counted from 10 percent of the country's polling stations so far.

Seats in the 275-member National Assembly will be allocated by the percentage of the nationwide vote that each faction gets. Some 14 million Iraqis were eligible to vote, but it is not yet known how many cast ballots. It was not known, therefore, what percentage of the total 1.6 million would be.

Iraq's Shiites, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq's estimated 26 million people, turned out in large numbers in Sunday's balloting, hoping to reverse decades of oppression under Iraq's Sunni Arab rulers.

But many in the Sunni Arab minority are thought to have stayed away, either for fear of retaliation or because they considered the vote illegitimate.

Meanwhile, the incomplete results of the more than 265,000 people who voted outside Iraq showed the Kurds were strong in Britain and France, winning 61.69 percent and 42.93 percent respectively.

In United Arab Emirates, Australia, Iran, Jordan and the United states, the Shiite list was the top with a percentage ranging from 29.6 to 66.29. Allawi's list was leading in Syria with 34.81 percent.