It took Iraqi chief election official Adil Allami more than 15 minutes to get through the list of election results. There were more than 100 groups on the ballot.
The Shiite religious list, known as the United Iraqi Alliance, received 48 percent of the votes, well below the 60 percent some had predicted. The alliance is likely to take about 132 of the 275 seats in the National Assembly, but will probably fall short of winning an outright majority.
The second-largest bloc in the assembly will go to the main Kurdish alliance, which took 25 percent of the vote, good for about 70 seats. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's group came in a distant third, with just under 14 percent and probably about 38 seats.
The largest Sunni-Arab-led ticket, topped by Interim President Ghazi al-Yawar, came in fourth, with less than two percent of the votes. His group will probably take four or five seats in the assembly.
Election officials will not say exactly how many seats each group has won, until the results are officially endorsed.
There is a three-day window for complaints before the results become official. Election officials will then do a complicated series of calculations to determine how many seats each group will get.
A preliminary analysis shows a total of 12 groups probably winning seats in the assembly, including an ethnic Turkmen party, the Communist party, a labor alliance, and a group of Assyrian Christians.
The Shiite list is clearly in a dominant position, but it will need to forge an alliance with at least one other group before it can form a government. The prime minister and president need to be approved by two-thirds of the assembly members.
The Kurds' strong second-place showing puts Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani in a good position to press for the largely ceremonial presidency. But there are several other possible alliances that could emerge, and behind-the-scenes negotiations have been underway for weeks, if not longer.
The prime minister is likely to come from the Shiite religious group, the United Iraqi Alliance.
There are two main contenders for the job, interim Vice President Ibrahim Jafari and current Finance Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. The two men are jockeying for support within the alliance, and there has been little indication of how the race will turn out.
But on the streets of Baghdad, many residents seem unconcerned with which man ends up running the country. Forty-year-old Shiite tailor Sami Shaker Hamza says he could not care less.
He said, "Actually, I do not care who will be prime minister, whether he is a Sunni or Shiite, or from some other sect. I do not care if our prime minister is a Christian. But I hope that prime minister will be fair with the Iraqi people. We are all brothers," he said.
The main concern of residents interviewed was an improvement in security.
Thirty-nine-year-old pharmacist Sana Ibrahim Hassan says, who wins is not as important as unity and security.
"I hope success. I hope freedom. I hope safety for everybody in Iraq," she said. "And I hope that all Iraqis help one each other, and stand as one hand against enemies."
Ms. Hassan is a Sunni Muslim, but unlike many other Sunnis, she wants the election to be seen as a success.
Most major Sunni Arab groups boycotted the election, and in most of the country, Sunnis stayed away from the polls. Election officials say the voter turnout was only two percent in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, compared with 58 percent nationwide.
The National Assembly's main job will be writing Iraq's new constitution.