Politicians credited with stamping out insurgents and militias appear to be among the top vote-getters at the polls in Iraq.
Unofficial projections are suggesting allies of the U.S.-backed prime minister have made gains in yesterday's provincial elections.
One Basra voter says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki deserves his vote because he "ended the militiamen's reign of terror."
Initial results from the landmark voting are not expected for days. But reports by Iraqi media and interviews by The Associated Press suggest candidates backing al-Maliki had strong showings in the crucial Shiite heartland in southern Iraq.
Many voters praised last year's government-backed crackdown that broke the Shiite militia control in Basra and other areas.
In the western Anbar province, Sunni tribesmen also are hoping to ride public support for their role in fighting insurgents.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)