BAGHDAD, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki said Wednesday he is "certain" that his party will win the country's landmark parliamentary polls.
"Our expectations are great, and our opportunities are greater and our victory is certain, but we are waiting to see the size of our victory," Maliki told reporters after casting his vote at a polling center in Rasheed Hotel in the heavily fortified Green Zone in downtown Baghdad.
Maliki described the polls as a great success for Iraq despite the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country in 2011.
"Here we are today carrying out the elections with great success and better than the last one, even though there is no foreign soldier on our land," Maliki said.
"The next government will be built on democratic basis, which one of its most prominent appearances is to create a majority government to run the country," he said.
Maliki said his bloc has no "red line" in allying with any party (after the polls results), but conditions must be set in advance with the others, including a rejection of sectarianism and external interference in Iraq's affairs.
Early in the morning, hundreds of Iraqis began to cast their ballots in the parliamentary elections, the first since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country in late 2011.
More than 8,000 voting centers across the country opened their doors at 7:00 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) and were scheduled to be closed at 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT).
Over 21 million Iraqis are eligible to vote for a new parliament, one they hope will bring change to the violence- shattered country.
More than 9,000 candidates from nearly 280 political entities are vying for the 328 seats on offer.