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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraq's Shiite Alliance Forms Majority

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq's electoral commission certified the results of the country's Jan. 30 elections Thursday and allocated 140 seats to the clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance, giving them a majority in the new parliament.

The allocation sets the stage for the first meeting of the new National Assembly, which will be in power for 10 months and draft a new constitution. The first order of business will be to convene the 275-member assembly and elect a president and two vice presidents to largely ceremonial positions.

The president and vice presidents will then name a prime minister, an appointment that will be worked out in advance by the largest parties in the National Assembly.

The commission gave parties three days to file complaints about the results.

"The commission received a number of complaints, and investigated it carefully and sorted it out," said Abdul Hussein Hindawi, the election commission chief.

The results he released Thursday matched projections calculated when the provisional results were announced Sunday. The commission first announced results from the ballot Sunday, saying the clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance won 48 percent of the vote for the National Assembly, the Kurdish alliance took 26 percent and Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite who supported strong ties to Washington, won only 14 percent.

But after the votes of the 99 parties that did not make it into the parliament were subtracted, the alliance held a majority. The seats were allocated according to this narrower vote count.

Even though the United Iraqi Alliance has a majority of seats in the assembly, it needs a two-thirds majority to select the president and two vice presidents, who will in turn choose a prime minister who will run the day-to-day government.

The premier will have to be approved by the assembly. For that, the alliance will need to form a coalition with other parties and is expected to link up with the independence-minded Kurds in northern Iraq.

The results were announced after a deadline to file complaints expired Wednesday. Farid Ayar, a spokesman for the election commission, told Al-Arabia television that 47 complaints were filed and that most of them have been resolved.

Carlos Valenzuela, the chief UN election expert in Iraq, said the elections results are "the definition of difficult."

"The elections were not perfect -- they were never meant to be -- but they were extremely good elections," he added.

Top Shiite politicians have agreed to choose their nominee for prime minister through a secret ballot, expected to take place Friday, to decide a two-man race between Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Ahmad Chalabi. The contrast between the two candidates is stark and reveals a division within the clergy-endorsed alliance, made up of 10 major political parties and various allied smaller groups.

Al-Jaafari, 58, is the leader of the religious Dawa Party, one of Iraq's oldest parties, known for its popularity and close ties to Iran. Although al-Jaafari is a moderate, his party's platform is conservative.

Chalabi, 58, a secular Shiite who left Iraq as a teen, leads the Iraqi National Congress and had close ties to the Pentagon before falling out of favor last year after claims he passed intelligence information to Iran.

Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress is an umbrella for groups that includes Iraqi exiles, Kurds and Shiites. Much of the intelligence his group supplied on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction programs failed to pan out.

Al-Jaafari was considered the leading contender Wednesday, though Chalabi's aides said their man had enough votes to win.