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Iraq holds first vote since US pullout, amid violence

The provincial elections are the nation's first since American troops exited in late 2011.

Iraqi woman votes 20130420Enlarge
An Iraqi woman casts her vote at a polling station during provincial elections on April 20, 2013 in Baghdad. Iraqis voted in the country's first polls since US troops departed, a key test of the country's stability in the face of a spike in attacks that has claimed more than 100 lives. (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

It was an historic day in Iraq, as voters went to the polls in nation's first election since US troops pulled out of the country.

But as the BBC reported  the day was marred by violence. Mortar rounds and about twelve small bombs exploded near polling centers on Saturday, wounding at least four people.

The vote marks Iraq's first provincial elections since American forces left in late 2011.

"Today is a day of change," Salah Hussein, a 45-year-old government employee  told Agence France-Presse.

In the week leading up to the vote, dozens of people have been killed in bombings targeting Shia areas and two polling stations were attacked, the BBC said.

13.8 million Iraqis were eligible to vote for 378 positions, Al Jazeera said.

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Agence France-Presse reported  the vote is an important test of the nation's stability and credibility. Fourteen candidates, mainly Sunni Arab or Kurdish, have been assassinated and a third of the provinces are not voting due to the violence and "political disputes."

Those Iraqis who did go to the polls voted for provincial councils which are responsible for local infrastructure, finance and name the area's governors. AFP said the results will be good predictor of how the government will do in next year's national election.

Vote counting will begin on Sunday.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/130420/iraq-first-vote-us-withdrawal-bombings