- Title: IRAQ: Polling stations close and vote counting begins
- Date: 8th March 2010
- Summary: PEOPLE STANDING AT POLLING STATION
- Embargoed: 23rd March 2010 12:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAAD3E7XQJOTQD2LTZPWWSMF03B
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- Story Text: Polling stations closed on Sunday (March 7) after a parliamentary election which Sunni militants tried to disrupt with attacks that killed almost 40 people.
Polls closed at 5pm (1400 GMT), ending 10 hours of balloting in which 19 million people were eligible to take part. It could take three days to get results, United Nations officials say.
Bomb and rocket attacks killed at least 38 people as Iraqis voted in an election that put Iraq's security forces and its fledgling democracy to the test before U.S. troops leave.
Blasts rumbled across Baghdad and other cities as scores of mortar rounds, rockets and roadside bombs exploded near polling stations in a campaign to scare voters after Sunni Islamist insurgents had vowed to wreck voting for Iraq's second full-term parliament since the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Voters in the ethnically and religiously divided country were given a choice between Shi'ite Islamist parties that have dominated Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall and secular rivals.
About 6,200 candidates from 86 factions are vying for 325 parliamentary seats. No bloc is expected to win a majority, and it may take months to form a government, risking a vacuum that armed groups such as Iraq's al Qaeda offshoot might exploit.
Few elections in the Middle East have been as competitive as this one. Its conduct could determine how democracy in Iraq affects a region used to kings and presidents-for-life.
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