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Maliki retains lead in latest vote count

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition has retained its narrow lead over the al-Iraqiya slate led by former premier Ayad Allawi as Iraq draws near to the final stage in the preliminary tally of votes in the March 7 parliamentary election.

With nearly 90 percent of the votes counted, Maliki’s State of Law coalition was about 40,000 votes ahead of Iraqiya.

The latest tally from Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission included 70 percent of ballots cast in the “special voting” period for soldiers, police officers, detainees and the sick and disabled held before the March 7 election, and some votes cast by Iraqi expatriates.

Overall, State of Law garnered 2,448,452 votes compared to Iraqiya’s 2,408,547 votes. The Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition led by Shia religious groups, was third nationwide with 1,859,606 votes.

Official results are not expected for weeks.

Once the electoral commission announces the final poll results, the Iraqi Supreme Court will have to certify them within about a month of the election after it has heard appeals.

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