An Iraqi soldier checks a man outside a polling station during a parliamentary election in Baghdad April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
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iraq held a democratic vote to choose a leader with no foreign troops present for the first time ever on Wednesday, as Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sought to hold power for a third term in a country again consumed by sectarian bloodshed.Since the last American soldiers pulled out in 2011 eight years after toppling dictator Saddam Hussein, iraq has descended back into extreme violence, with hundreds of civilians killed each month by al Qaeda-inspired Sunni insurgents, and Shi'ite militia once more taking fearsome revenge. Despite the myriad parties, the election is widely seen as a referendum on Maliki, a Shiite Muslim who has governed for eight years.Shi'ite militia, once kept in check by Maliki and the Americans, have resurfaced to join the battle.Two different elections unfolded across iraq Wednesday: one in predominantly Shi'ite areas of the country, where people were voting for the figure they thought best suited to defeat the al Qaeda offshoot the Islamic State of iraq and the Levant (ISIL); the other in Sunni regions and neighbourhoods in Baghdad, where people fear both the Shi'ite-led security forces and ISIL. After the 2010 election iraq was without a government for nine months while Maliki, whose party placed second, constructed a coalition with Sunnis and Kurds to stay in power.Maliki, a Shiite Islamist from a party that fought underground against Saddam, has become a deeply polarising figure even among Shi'ites.
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