Militants have issued death threats against employees of Iraq's election commission, raising concerns about security ahead of the upcoming provincial balloting, officials said. 

The April 20 vote is the first nationwide ballot since 2010 and an important test for embattled prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. 

Muqdad al-Shuraifi, a member of the election commission, said commission employees in the predominantly Sunni provinces of Salahuddin and Ninevah have received death threats from militants. 

He would not provide any further details. Mr Al-Shuraifi said the weekly anti-government demonstrations by the Sunni minority could make it more difficult to ensure security and a "fair election" in western and northern Iraq. 

He says 131 of 8,224 candidates for 18 provincial councils have been disqualified for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein now-disbanded Baath party.



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