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Al-Zamili was one of two former government officials arrested and accused of allowing Shiite death squads to use ambulances and government hospitals to carry out kidnappings and killings, although the charges were dropped two years ago.

Al-Maliki broke off from the Shiite alliance more than a year ago in an effort to win support from a broader base. If his lead holds, it will serve as another, even bigger blow to religious leaders against whom he also fared well in last year’s provincial elections.

Many experts have noted the rejection of nationalist, non-religious coalitions reflects Iraqi frustration with years of sectarian fighting as well as frustration over the past four years of religious parties to improve much needed government services.

“The voters have shown that they are fed up with the religious parties that failed to improve their life,” said Nabil Salim, a political science professor at Baghdad University.

Iraqiya is led by one of al-Maliki’s predecessors, former Premier Ayad Allawi, who is also Shiite. However, Iraqiya has attracted Sunnis who have similarly rejected their own religiously based politicians but remain suspicious of al-Maliki’s continued, if lessened, ties to Iran.

Iraqiya officials kept up a drumbeat Saturday of fraud accusations — including discarded ballots and the failure of some provincial ballot boxes to be delivered to the counting center in Baghdad — that they alleged may have cost them votes.

“Our stance is that there were violations and we want the truth about them,” said Iraqiya spokeswoman Maysoun al-Damlouji.