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ISCI Says Iraqi PM's Allies Win Al-Basrah, Baghdad In Polls

Ammar Al-Hakim is widely expected to succeed his father as leader of ISCI.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- A rival party leader has conceded that allies of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki probably won Iraq's two most important cities in local polls, but Ammar al-Hakim said coalitions would still end up ruling in most places.

Al-Hakim, a leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), said a group led by al-Maliki's Al-Da'wah Party had won a landslide in the January 31 provincial elections in the southern oil hub of Al-Basrah and may have come first in Baghdad.

But outside Al-Basrah, no political group had gained enough votes to secure domination of the powerful provincial councils, meaning postelection coalition-building would be critical in deciding who picks regional governors.

The election was Iraq's most peaceful vote since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, boosting hopes that years of insurgency and sectarian slaughter between majority Shi'a and Sunni Arabs are coming to an end. Official results are due on February 5.

"Al-Basrah could have a majority of more than 50 percent for some of the entities," al-Hakim said in an interview. When asked which entity, he named al-Maliki's State of Law coalition.

ISCI, once the dominant Shi'ite party in Iraq, ran a campaign that appealed to Shi'ite religious identity.

Al-Maliki, also a Shi'ite, based his appeal to voters on security and nationalism.

Ammar al-Hakim is widely expected to succeed his father, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, who has cancer, as the leader of ISCI.

Until the January 31 polls, ISCI had controlled most of the provincial councils in the mostly Shi'ite and oil-rich south.

Al-Hakim said initial data pointed to the party having won more seats than in previous polls in 2005, but fewer than it had expected.