High turnout forces extension to Iraq's voting day

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The Independent Online

Iraq's election commission extended voting by an hour today around the country to deal with a larger than expected turnout of people seeking to elect a new parliament.

The polling stations closed after the extension at 6pm (3pm GMT), Iraq's election commission said.

A spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission, Fareed Ayar, said "results will be announced within two weeks."

The decision to extend the closing time was the clearest indication so far that there was a large turnout at the country's more than 33,000 polling stations, especially among Sunni Arabs who boycotted the Jan. 30 elections.

According to commission official Hussein Hendawi, the decision was basically taken to deal with a large turnout in Anbar, the western province that is a Sunni Arab stronghold; Diyala, which is split between Shiites and Sunni Arabs; and in the city of Mosul, which has a mix of Kurds and Sunni Arabs.

Commission official Munthur Abdelamir said the decision was made at an emergency session of the commission "in order to allow citizens to vote because of the large turnout."

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