Tight security for regional elections in Iraq

Sunday 21 April 2013 09.00
1 of 2
Voting took place at more than 5,300 polling centres for members of provincial councils who will serve in 12 of Iraq's 18 governorates
Voting took place at more than 5,300 polling centres for members of provincial councils who will serve in 12 of Iraq's 18 governorates
Tight security at Iraqi polling stations over fears of attacks
Tight security at Iraqi polling stations over fears of attacks

Close to 50% of eligible voters cast their ballot in Iraq's provincial elections today amid tight security.

Election officials said including results from a special vote a week earlier for members of the armed forces, total participation would be more than 51%.

Official preliminary results are not expected for several days, but the local vote will be a key test of political parties' strength before the parliamentary elections in 2014.

A dozen small bombs exploded and mortar rounds landed near polling centres in cities north and south of the capital.

Three voters and a policeman were injured by mortars in Latifiya, south of Baghdad, police said.

The violence was relatively low key for a country where a local al- Qaeda wing and other Sunni Islamists have stepped up their efforts to undermine the Shia Muslim-led government and stoke confrontation along religious and ethnic divides.

This marks the country's first vote since the US military withdrawal and a key test of its stability.

Government officials, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, cast their ballots at the Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

Thousands of candidates from 50 electoral blocs are running for 378 positions.

As in past elections, officials have increased security precautions to thwart attempts by insurgents to disrupt the vote.