"The last parliamentary elections in March 2010 saw continuing disputes over vote counting, legal interpretations and alliance negotiations, which resulted in more than eight months of political deadlock."
Baghdad, April 30 - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Wednesday he is certain that his party will win the country's landmark parliamentary polls.

Our expectations are great, and our opportunities are greater and our victory is certain, but we are waiting to see the size of our victory, Maliki told reporters after casting his vote at a polling center in Rasheed Hotel in the heavily fortified Green Zone in downtown Baghdad.

Al-Maliki described the polls as a great success for Iraq despite the withdrawal of US troops from the country in 2011, Xinhua reported.

Here we are today carrying out the elections with great success and better than the last one, even though there is no foreign soldier on our land, al-Maliki said.

The next government will be built on a democratic basis, he said, adding that the aim was to have a majority government to run the country.

Al-Maliki said his bloc has no red line in allying with any party -, but conditions must be set in advance with the others, including a rejection of sectarianism and external interference in Iraq's affairs.

Early in the morning, hundreds of Iraqis began to cast their ballots in the parliamentary elections, the first since the withdrawal of US troops from the country in late 2011.

More than 8,000 voting centres across the country opened their doors at 7 a.m. and were scheduled to close at 6 p.m., Xinua reported.

Over 21 million Iraqis are eligible to vote for a new parliament, one they hope will bring change to the violence-hit country.

More than 9,000 candidates from nearly 280 political entities are vying for 328 seats.

Al-Maliki is leading the State of Law Coalition, seeking a third term in the most powerful post in the country.

Many local observers believe that the mainly Shia State of Law Coalition could lead in the elections, but will still be far from securing a majority as it faces severe challenges from other electoral entities, including rival Shia blocs.

Many Iraqis have voiced their hope that the parliamentary elections would bring about a change to the country, but some local observers have cautioned that Iraq still has a long way to go before it becomes a stable and prosperous state.

Differences and divisions among Iraq's main communities - Shias, Sunnis and Kurds - have been deepening, reflecting the failure of the political process to curb the struggle among the country's factions that erupted after the US-led invasion in 2003.

According to Iraq's constitution, the largest bloc in parliament will have the right to nominate a prime minister to form the cabinet.

The federal Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the largest bloc can mean either the largest electoral coalition or the largest coalition formed after the elections.

The ruling, in addition to a modified seat-allocating electoral system that decreases the advantages previously granted to larger parties, has prompted many major parties and prominent politicians to avoid forming larger electoral coalitions that sometimes include members with conflicting interests.

The last parliamentary elections in March 2010 saw continuing disputes over vote counting, legal interpretations and alliance negotiations, which resulted in more than eight months of political deadlock.

Many observers say that with so many political powerhouses running on their own in this year's elections, the road to forming a new government in Iraq this time around will most likely also be a bumpy one.


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