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Iraq holds first vote after US pullout

Security tight for provincial council polling

Election workers counted ballots at a polling station in Baghdad on Saturday. In some places, Iraqis could not cast ballots because their names did not show up on voter rolls.

Thaier Al-Sudani/REUTERS

Election workers counted ballots at a polling station in Baghdad on Saturday. In some places, Iraqis could not cast ballots because their names did not show up on voter rolls.

BAGHDAD — Iraq carried out its first election since the US military withdrawal without major bloodshed Saturday in a crucial test for Iraqi security forces as they face a reviving Al Qaeda insurgency.

But elections were delayed in two provinces wracked by antigovernment protests, and there were complaints about missing names on voter rolls in other provinces, casting a shadow over the process.

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The results will be a key measure of support for the country’s vying political coalitions and could boost the victors’ chances heading into next year’s parliamentary elections.

Thousands of candidates from 50 electoral blocs were vying for 378 seats on provincial councils, which hold sway over public works projects and other decisions at the local level.

Officials ratcheted up security to thwart insurgent attempts to disrupt the vote. Scattered violence — mainly mortar shells and small bombs — struck near polling places. But they resulted in no fatalities — a departure from a wave of bloodshed earlier in the week. Six people were reported wounded Saturday.

As in past elections, voters dipped their fingers in purple ink after casting their ballots to prevent repeat voting.

Among them was Oday Mohammed, a businessman who brought his mother, wife, and children along with him to vote for a candidate from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc. He said he believes both candidates and voters are growing more experienced with the democratic process following the 2003 ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein.

‘‘Not all politicians are corrupt. There are some good people,’’ Mohammed said at a polling center in the mainly Shi'ite district of Kazimiyah.

The vote comes at a time of rising tensions between Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority and the Shi'ite majority that has dominated politics since the US-led invasion a decade ago.

Election results were not expected for several days, but turnout in sections of Baghdad, the southern oil hub of Basra and other cities appeared light.

Many Iraqis are frustrated with the lack of progress despite several earlier regional and national elections, which were protected with help from the United States.

Several said they saw no point in casting ballots. ‘‘All the politicians and provincial officials, whether Sunni or Shi'ite, are nothing but thieves and liars,’’ said Ali Farhan, 35, a taxi driver in eastern Baghdad.

Voting took place at more than 5,300 polling centers for members of provincial councils who will serve in 12 of Iraq’s 18 governorates.

Officials last month unexpectedly delayed voting in two largely Sunni provinces, citing security concerns. The provinces, Anbar and Ninevah, have witnessed four months of large antigovernment protests, raising questions about the motives behind the delay.

Militants stepped up attacks across the country head of the vote.

A wave of car bombings and other attacks Monday killed at least 55 people and wounded more than 200. Another bombing at a packed cafe late Thursday that left 32 dead. And at least 14 candidates were assassinated in recent weeks.

Several would-be voters in Baghdad’s mainly Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah could not find their names on voting rolls at several polling centers, so they went home without casting ballots.

‘‘I’m disappointed. We’re missing the chance to make a change,’’ lawyer Raed Najm said after failing to find his name at four separate polling stations.

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