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Islamic Parties Carry Iraq Local Vote

National Results Pending; Sectarian Attacks Kill 23

By Doug Struck and Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 12, 2005; Page A10

BAGHDAD, Feb. 11 -- Islamic parties will be heavily represented on provincial councils across Iraq, according to final results released Friday from races in 12 provinces that revealed enthusiastic voter participation in the north and south and lower turnout in Baghdad and Sunni Muslim-populated areas.

"This is a message to all political parties to respect the Islamic identity of the people," said Jalaleddin Saghir, a preacher at a prominent mosque in Baghdad and a candidate on a Shiite Muslim-backed political list.

A man mourns near a bakery in Baghdad after masked gunmen blocked the street and gunned down 11 members of a family that owned the shop, where posters for Shiite candidates had been posted. (Samir Mizban -- AP)

The results from the Jan. 30 elections -- which did not include figures for the 275-seat National Assembly -- were released on another day of deadly insurgent attacks. Eleven Iraqis were killed in a massacre at a bake shop in Baghdad, and at least 12 worshipers were killed when a car bomb exploded outside a mosque in a nearby town. Also, the U.S. military said a Marine and an Army soldier were killed Friday in separate traffic accidents, the Associated Press reported.

Elections officials, facing growing complaints, said results of the National Assembly vote would be available in "a few days, maximum."

"The counting is in the very final stages," said Abdul-Hussein Hendawi, the head of the election commission.

The provincial council returns provided the first solid indication of voter turnout in Iraq's first free election since the 1950s. In two Kurdish-populated areas in northern Iraq, turnout reached 80 and 89 percent; it reached 73 percent around the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in the predominantly Shiite south. But turnout was significantly lower -- 48 percent -- in Baghdad, and dropped to 34 percent in Diyala province, east of Baghdad.

Elections officials cautioned that turnout totals for the national election could differ from the provincial totals. At most polls, voters were given two ballots -- one national, one local -- and officials said some may have turned in only one.

Islamic parties dominated the results in the southern provinces, where Shiite religious leaders have assumed growing importance since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The mainstream Shiite religious parties that returned from exile after the U.S. invasion fared best. They drew on infrastructure honed during years abroad and the perceived support of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential religious leader.

A surprisingly strong showing was also posted by a faction loyal to the father of Moqtada Sadr, a young Shiite cleric whose militia fought U.S. forces twice last year. Sadr's father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Sadr, was assassinated by agents of Hussein in 1999.

But while Islamic parties fared well as a group, their votes were scattered among various factions, and only one -- a party of independents in Wasit province said to be backed by Moqtada Sadr -- won an absolute majority. Seats will be allocated on each local council in proportion to each party's votes.

The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a formerly exiled Shiite group, fared far better than factions of the Dawa party, a Shiite movement with deep roots in Iraq. The Supreme Council was victorious in the provinces of Najaf, Karbala, Qadisiyah and Muthana. It received its strongest support in Najaf, with 37 percent of the vote, and in Karbala, with 34 percent.

The Sadr faction, known as the Islamic Virtue Party, performed best in some of the poorest provinces, where the ministry of Sadr's father was influential in the 1990s. It won the largest number of votes in Theqar province and finished second in Muthana. Another group backed by Sadr won in Maysan province.

In Baghdad, candidates affiliated with the Shiite-sponsored coalition of parties will take a surprisingly strong position in the local council after winning 40 percent of the vote. The party of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi won 15 percent of the vote here, and a faction of the Sadr movement took 9 percent.

Though attacks promised by opponents to the elections failed to stop the voting, violence has continued across Iraq.

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