BAGHDAD - Preliminary results from Iraq's parliamentary election will be released on Wednesday, an electoral commission official said on Tuesday.

None of the political blocs contesting Sunday's vote was expected to win a decisive victory and talks to form a coalition government could take months.

That could create a dangerous vacuum as Iraq tries to cement security gains against a stubborn Islamist insurgency as U.S. troops prepare to leave.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition polled well in Shi'ite southern provinces and a secular, cross-sectarian bloc led by former premier Iyad Allawi appeared to be strong in Sunni areas of the north and west, according to informal tallies.

Lawmaker Sami al-Askari, a member of Maliki's coalition, said State of Law took about 45 percent of the vote in Baghdad and would win about half the seats in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf. It was running third in some northern areas behind Iraqiya and the Kurdish Alliance, he said.

We will be the biggest bloc in the next parliament and according to the constitution we will be the bloc that will nominate the next prime minister, he said. But definitely we will need to ally with one or two other lists.

Turnout was 62 percent in a poll that Iraqis hope will help bring better governance and stability after years of sectarian warfare as U.S. troops prepare to formally end combat operations by Aug. 31 and pull out by the end of 2011.

The turnout was higher than last year's provincial election despite attempts by Sunni Islamist insurgents to disrupt the vote with attacks that killed 39.

Officials have said they will release the first results when 30 percent of the vote has been counted.
We started entering information in the database today and an announcement about the first 30 percent of the results will be tomorrow, said Waleed Zubaidi, operations manager for Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission.

The solid turnout indicated Iraqis were not deterred by explosions that rumbled across Baghdad on election day.

General Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said plans were on track to halve U.S. troop strength to 50,000 by the end of August and it would take a catastrophic event to alter that plan.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Jim Loney; editing by Michael Christie)