Security forces have been put on alert with police and army flooding streets before the poll, which is expected to demonstrate a decisive shift away from extremism. Voters will elect governors with powers over administration, finance and reconstruction projects. Although three candidates were assassinated in the northern city of Mosul, by the standards of recent years the run-up to the election has been peaceful. Fourteen of Iraq's 18 provinces will hold a vote on Sturday. One significant exception is the contested city of Kirkuk, where Shia, Sunni and Kurds are involved in a violent three-way power struggle. A heavy turnout of Sunni voters is expected after they boycotted the 2005 election. Today's vote is also being seen as something of a referendum on the leadership of Nouri Maliki, the prime minister who is Shia. He has successfully won over moderates from across Iraqis political spectrum, including many Sunnis, and candidates who back him are expected to do well. There are fears of violence, however, from extremists who are still opposed to Iraqi democracy. Foreign companies will be watching the election closely, especially in the oil-rich city of Basra where British troops have been based for six years.