BAGHDAD // Nouri al Maliki's bid to remain as Iraq's prime minister gained steam yesterday, as early results crucially put him ahead in the capital. Though the preliminary figures represent less than one-third of all votes cast, they have put Mr al Maliki firmly in pole position in the race for the top job, with only his predecessor Ayad Allawi having emerged as a potential rival. Rival blocs have already begun jostling over the formation of a government and analysts say they could still manoeuvre to form an administration without Mr al Maliki.
With 18 per cent of ballots counted in Baghdad, Mr al Maliki's alliance was comfortably ahead with about 150,000 votes, followed by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition led by Shiite religious parties, with 108,000. Mr Allawi's secular Iraqiyya bloc was third on 105,000. Baghdad and its seven million residents account for 70 parliamentary seats, or more than one-fifth of the 325-member Council of Representatives.
News of Mr al Maliki's lead in Baghdad came shortly after Abbas al Bayati, a senior member of his coalition, said State of Law had formed a committee to begin negotiating with rival blocs to hammer out a government.