BAGHDAD — Iraq's national election results were finalized Tuesday, nearly three months after a parliamentary poll heightened sectarian divisions and generated confusion about the formation of the next government.
The outcome announced by Iraq's Supreme Court was unchanged from the preliminary results released in March. The election gave a narrow, inconclusive edge to a mostly Sunni coalition headed by secular former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, with 91 seats, compared with 89 seats for the Shiite slate headed by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
With the announcement, the clock starts ticking on a series of constitutionally mandated steps that are expected to inject fresh impetus into lackluster negotiations for a new government.
Within 15 days, President Jalal Talabani is supposed to summon the new Parliament for its first session, during which the 325 legislators are to choose a speaker and two deputies. Within 30 days of that first meeting, Parliament is to elect a new president, who is then empowered to ask the leader of the biggest bloc in Parliament to name a prime minister and form a new government.
Negotiations have foundered because of disputes over who heads the largest bloc: Allawi, whose slate won the most seats, or a tentative new alliance between Maliki's State of Law slate and the third-place winner, a Shiite coalition with 70 seats.
Though the new alliance would seem to have the most seats — 159 — it has been unable to agree on a candidate for prime minister or even a name for the alliance, making it unclear whether it can legally be defined as constituting a bloc.