Iraq’s march of freedom: Shi’ite fundamentalists claim victory

The official results aren’t in yet, nor are any preliminary returns, but that isn’t stopping the United Iraqi Alliance backed by fundamentalist Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Sistani from claiming victory — and an overwhelming one at that:

“Officials in the United Iraqi Alliance believe their bloc of mainly Shi’ite parties has won almost half of the 275 assembly seats, based on their own exit polls and 13,000 monitors.

“Iraqis may have to wait days for the Electoral Commission to declare the results, but if those projections are correct, the Alliance could link with smaller parties to build a two-thirds majority in parliament, enough to choose Iraq’s new leaders.

“Party exit polls suggest voters ignored most of the 111 choices on their bulky and bewildering ballot papers and plumped for one of three main blocs in contention for power.

“A Kurdish grouping is expected to come second behind the United Iraqi Alliance, with a secular bloc led by Shi’ite interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi likely to take third place.”

The New York Times reports:

“One group of candidates that appeared to do well was the United Iraqi Alliance, a large coalition of Shiite parties brought together by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s powerful religious leader. One senior aide in that alliance said the party had been told by American and British officials that it appeared to have captured more than 50 percent of the vote.”

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