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Iraq's Main Shiite Religious Alliance Emerges Strong in Elections

The Iraqi electoral commission has certified the results of last month's poll, making them official. In the final breakdown, the main Shiite religious alliance received 140 of the 275 seats in the National Assembly.

Iraq's electoral commission signed off on the results after a three-day window for complaints expired. Election officials said there were a number of challenges filed, but they had been investigated.

The head of Iraq's electoral commission, Abdul Hussein Hindawi, said the commission is sure that the outcome reflects the will of the Iraqi people.

"The council has looked again into the initial results and agreed that the elections were fair despite some shortcomings due to the circumstances. But it has not affected the credibility of the elections."

The top United Nations election advisor in Iraq, Carlos Valenzuela, congratulated Iraq on holding what he called an "extremely good" election in the most difficult of circumstances.

"The elections were not perfect," he says. "They were never meant to be. But they were extremely good elections, and we congratulate not just the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, but all of the Iraqi people, the political entities that took part, the electoral monitors, everyone who went out and took part in this process in whatever way they chose to."

As the results became final, the commission could also announce how many seats each so-called "electoral entity" had won. The press had roughly estimated those tallies based on the unofficial results, but the official calculation could not be released until now. Twelve of the 111 groups that contested the poll made it into the National Assembly.

The main Shiite Islamic coalition took 140 seats, more than half of the total 275. The group won about 48 percent of the vote, but got a higher percentage of the seats because so many smaller parties failed to meet the cutoff to get into the assembly.

The Kurdish coalition was second with 75 of the 275 seats. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's group was next with 40.

The Shiite coalition is still trying to decide which of its members to nominate for the prime minister's job. The race is said to be down to two candidates, Ibrahim Jafari and Ahmad Chalabi.

Mr. Jafari is the interim vice president of Iraq and the leader of the Dawa Party, a conservative religious Shiite group that is one of the country's largest political parties.

Mr. Chalabi is a somewhat controversial moderate Shiite who was strongly supported by the Pentagon before the invasion of Iraq. He fell out of favor with Washington after allegations surfaced that he had passed intelligence to Iran, a charge he denies.

Opinion polls say Mr. Jafari is the country's single most popular politician, and he has been considered the favorite for the post, but his rival has put up a stiffer challenge than expected.

Officials from the Shiite coalition say they expect to vote on the matter and announce their decision in the next few days.