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Preliminary Iraqi Election Vote Count Indicates Shiite Victories

By John F. Burns

and Dexter Filkins

The New York Times -- BAGHDAD, Iraq

Preliminary election returns released on Thursday showed that 72 percent of the 1.6 million votes counted so far had gone to an alliance of Shiite parties dominated by religious groups with strong links to Iran, with only 18 percent going to a group led by Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister and a secular Shiite who favors strong ties to the United States.

Although the votes were drawn only from Baghdad and five southern provinces where the Shiite parties were expected to score strongly, and from only 10 percent of the country’s 5,216 polling stations, the scale of the alliance’s vote underscored the probability of a crushing triumph for the Shiite alliance and a historic shift from decades of Sunni minority rule in Iraq. The Shiite alliance took nearly 1.2 million votes against about 295,000 votes for Allawi’s group.

The scale of the lead held by the Shiite alliance, and a possible alliance with the Kurds, seemed certain to cause anxiety in the country’s Sunni Arab minority, Iraq’s traditional rulers, who largely boycotted Sunday’s election and remain deeply suspicious of the emerging Shiite dominance.

Indeed, some Sunni leaders said the Shiite coalition’s strong showing to date did little more than validate the deep sense of alienation felt by Iraq’s Sunnis, most of whom did not cast ballots on Sunday.

“The Shia were determined and encouraged their supporters to vote and to register, and the Sunnis didn’t care that much, either out of fear or apathy,” said Adnan Pachachi, a foreign minister in the years before Saddam Hussein who is a prominent Sunni leader.

But signs also emerged on Thursday that some Sunni leaders were ready to involve themselves at least in a limited way in the country’s political debate. The leaders of 13 mostly Sunni political parties that stayed out of the election agreed Monday they would take part in writing the constitution, the next step in the establishment of a new Iraqi state.