Preliminary results from last weekend's provincial elections in Iraq are rolling in. And they may signal a change in Iraq's political landscape. Anchor Marco Werman finds out who's in and who's out from the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.
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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman, and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston. Preliminary results from Iraq's provincial elections over the weekend are now rolling in, and there are indications that Iraq's political landscape is changing. There are some clear winners and losers. The BBC's Jim Muir is in Baghdad. Jim, who appears to be on top?
JIM MUIR: Well, the headline really, I guess, concerns Nouri Al-Maliki, the Prime Minister. He wasn't standing himself, but his face was all over the place sponsoring a party which has â€“ or I should call it a â€œcoalition,â€ really, that's emerged for this election â€“ called â€œThe State of Lawâ€ coalition. Now, this party has campaigned really on a platform of law and order, building on the successes that Mr. Maliki has deemed to have scored last year when he sent the army in to fight Shiite militias both here in Baghdad and in Basra. Well, in Baghdad, his faction came out well ahead with 38 percent of the vote, and in Basra 37 percent â€“ many, many percentage points ahead of his nearest rival. So those other parties, including the one that had been deemed to be the biggest, the â€“ which is called The Supreme Council for the Islamic â€“ used to be called The Islamic Revolution in Iraq. It changed its name; it's changed its name again. But it's deemed to be close to Iran, and it's come in a very poor second in some areas and much further down the field elsewhere. So it's one of the clear losers.
WERMAN: What does that imbalance say about politics in Iraq right now?
MUIR: What it says really is that Iraqis want law and order and they want security. And they deem Mr. Maliki to have given them that, and they're rewarding him and his followers for that. They also want Iraq to be a unified country. That's another big difference with the Supreme Council, because it advocates almost separatism in the south. It would like to do in the south of the country, mainly in the Shiite area, what the Kurds have done in the north. And again, Mr. Maliki stands for holding the country together, and for a strong army, strong police, and law and order. And those are the vibes that seem to have caught on as far as a lot of the public are concerned.
WERMAN: Do you think the stability is going to â€“ well, seeming stability is going to assist American troops getting out of Iraq earlier?
MUIR: Well, that's been the message so far, but it's still a bit too early to call. The province that's being watched most closely in that regard is the Sunni area of Al-Anbar, to the west of Baghdad. Now, in Al-Anbar province, the tribes which were so instrumental in turning against Al-Qaeda, those tribes were threatening to go into a revolt, an armed revolt, if their people didn't come out on top in this election. Now, they have come out 2nd place, in fact, behind another of the traditional Sunni parties. The one that they hate most came in 3rd, so that may be enough to kind of keep them quiet. But only after that has been successfully passed, you know, without trouble, then it will be deemed to be a stable election, a step towards stability for Iraq, and therefore encouraging for further US troop drawdowns.
WERMAN: The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad. Thank you for the update, Jim.