13 February 2005 -- The first complete vote count in Iraq's elections indicates that the Shi'ites will have to form alliances within the 275-seat National Assembly to push through their agenda and select a president and prime minister.
That's because the United Iraqi Alliance -- a group comprised mostly of Shi'ite Islamist candidates -- fell narrowly short of winning an absolute majority of the vote on 30 January.
Of the 8.4 million votes that were cast, about 48 percent went to the Shi'ite alliance. A Kurdish alliance finished second with about 26 percent, while candidates allied with U.S.-backed Prime Minister Iyad Allawi received 13.8 percent.
Farid Ayar, a spokesman for Iraq's Independent Election Commission, explained today that any complaints about election irregularities still must be dealt with before the tally is finalized and the distribution of parliamentary seats can be determined.
"As of tomorrow, if there are any complaints, the commission will receive those complaints. Everybody has three days to formally register such complaints. During these three days, we will try to respond to some of these complaints. And if we are unable to do so, we may extend the time [for dealing with complaints.] When we finish all this, we will approve the results," Ayad said.
Preliminary results released during the past two weeks have shown that relatively few Sunni Arabs voted. That means the minority group which had dominated Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein is expected to have few seats in the new National Assembly.
Adnan Pachachi is a Sunni political leader who participated as a candidate and leads a group called the Iraqi Independent Democrats. He told RFE/RL ahead of today's tally announcement that he is disappointed by low voter turnout in Sunni areas. But he said he will not contest the legitimacy of the ballot.
"I would have been happier if there was a large voter turnout in certain areas where the turnout has been extremely low -- which, of course, gives the perception that this election lacked proper balance. But I do not contest its legitimacy. It is a legitimate election. A large number of Iraqis voted and voted freely. Unfortunately, a substantial number of Iraqis did not vote," Pachachi said
However, analysts and correspondent say the low number of Sunni representatives in the legislature could fuel the insurgency being fought mainly by Sunni Arab militants who want to drive out U.S.-led coalition forces and overthrow the American-backed government.
The composition of the 275-member National Assembly will be determined by the share of the vote that each list of candidates received.
Once formed, the assembly will elect a Presidency Council that includes a president and two deputies. The council must have the backing of two-thirds of the legislature -- or 184 members.
The three-person Presidency Council must elect a prime minister and a cabinet within two weeks of being created. Its decision must be unanimous.
The prime minister and cabinet will then seek approval from the National Assembly in a single vote of confidence. It must be supported by a simple majority of parliament -- 138 votes -- to be approved.
The National Assembly also will be tasked with drafting a constitution for Iraq by 15 August.
Once the constitution is drafted, it must be presented to the Iraqi people for approval in a referendum to be conducted no later than 15 October.
If the constitution is approved, a general election will be held by 15 December. The resulting government would take office before the end of this year. But if the constitution is rejected through the referendum, the National Assembly will be dissolved and an election for a new legislature must take place by 15 December.
(compiled from wire and service reports)[For news, background, and analysis on Iraq's historic 30 January elections, see RFE/RL's webpage "Iraq Votes 2005".]