Polls are open in Iraq for local officials in the country's first elections since the U.S. military withdrawal.

Voting began Saturday for members of provincial councils in 12 of Iraq's 18 governorates. Thousands of candidates from 50 electoral blocs are running for 378 positions.

The results will not directly affect Iraq's national leadership. But the vote will be an important barometer of support for Iraq's various political blocs heading into 2014 parliamentary elections.

Authorities tightened security around the country. Nearly 14 million voters are eligible to participate.

Officials delayed voting in two largely Sunni provinces, citing security concerns. No vote is scheduled in the ethnically divided province of Kirkuk. Iraq's largely autonomous northern Kurdish region will hold local elections in September.