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Winners and losers in Iraqi elections

Here's an early line on the winners and losers in Sunday's Iraqi elections:

WINNERS:

The Bush administration: The U.S. military, backed by Iraqi forces, managed to secure the country. For a day. But can democracy take root with 150,000 U.S. troops on the ground?

Ayad Allawi: Iraq's secular, tough-talking interim prime minister got out the vote and survived countless assassination attempts. Now comes the hard part: fighting to keep his post in a landscape of powerful Shiite Muslim clerics.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani: Iraq's highest-ranking Shiite cleric forced elections, made voting a religious duty and assembled the most powerful bloc of candidates. He won, even though his Iranian citizenship barred him from voting.

Kurds: Long oppressed by Sunni Muslim Arabs, they have enough muscle to veto a proposed constitution. But do they want to be left alone, or do they want independence—and Iraq's northern oil fields?

Iraqis: They fought their latest battle with ballots, not bullets. At least 44 died in the vote, yet millions still came to the polls, once again surprising the world with their resilience.

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LOSERS:

Abu Musab al Zarqawi: The reputed 13 suicide bombers of Osama bin Laden's self-proclaimed lieutenant barely put a dent in the election day turnout. But the Jordanian militant may have more violence in store.

The Muslim Scholars Association: So much for a boycott. The hardline Sunni Muslim clerics watched in frustration as even Fallujah, once the heart of the homegrown resistance, succumbed to election fever.

Sunni Muslims: Although they appear to have voted in surprising numbers, at least in some places, the election is the end of their dominion over the Shiites and Kurds.

Saddam Hussein: Not even a write-in candidate, the fallen dictator sat out election day in a U.S.-run prison, where he's awaiting trial on war crimes charges.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Iraq

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