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In Iraq, a day of votes, violence

On March 7, 2010, millions of Iraqis voted to elect lawmakers who will rule the country for years as U.S. forces withdraw. The election was marred by dozens of attacks that killed nearly 40 people and underscored the security problems the incoming government will face.

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"I didn't care about this election, but when I saw this I went to vote," said Raed Waleed, who helped pull the injured from the rubble. "I want to change the faces of the people who are responsible for all the problems in this country."

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Attacks were also reported in Fallujah, a city west of the capital, and in Diyala province, north of Baghdad.

Sunni insurgents had threatened to derail the vote. They saw the election as an affirmation of Shiite rule.

Election commission officials declined on Sunday night to provide voter-turnout figures. They acknowledged that turnout was light during the morning, but said it picked up in the afternoon as the explosions stopped.

Official results are expected to be released in a day or two. Representatives from two leading slates of candidates predicted victories.

"From Baghdad to Basra, we are the first," said lawmaker Sami al-Askari, who is running with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law slate.

Supporters of Maliki drove around the southern city of Najaf, singing and hoisting placards of their candidate.

In Baghdad, hundreds of supporters of former prime minister Ayad Allawi, another front-runner for the country's top job, gathered at his house to congratulate him for what they described as a strong showing.

A person close to the campaign, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Allawi camp anticipates getting at least 110 seats, based on exit polls. The next parliament will have 325 lawmakers. Most analysts predict no coalition will earn a decisive victory.

On Sunday evening, Allawi accused the electoral commission and competing political parties of possible fraud. He warned that if breaches are not investigated, the next parliament would have to examine the electoral commission's conduct.

"The government couldn't fulfill its promises to provide the security and safety. Because of that, Iraqi blood was shed today," Allawi said in a news conference. "It is definite that wide and serious breaches happened."

Tensions were high at many polling sites where thousands of would-be voters could not find their names on the rolls -- a chronic problem in past elections.


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