JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: the final vote tally in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, and to Jeffrey Brown.
JEFFREY BROWN: Three weeks after Iraqis cast their votes, the results produced a cliffhanger outcome today that was immediately challenged by the loser.
Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission announced that the coalition of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was the winner of March’s parliamentary election with 91 seats. Allawi is a secular Shiite who ran with Sunni backing.
Running close behind with 89 seats was the coalition of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a member of the Dawa Party, a Shia political group. Al-Maliki said he would challenge the count.
Allawi’s win positions him to be the first to try to form a new government, but that could take weeks. Whatever happens next, the head of the election commission hailed the process that brought Iraqi democracy this far.
FARAJ AL-HAIDARI, Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (through translator): I congratulate the Iraqi people for this victory, because the Iraqi people are the winners who spoke on the victory day of the election on the 7th of March.
JEFFREY BROWN: Both the voting and today’s announcement were accompanied by scattered violence. Hours before the results were released, two bombs exploded outside a restaurant 50 miles north of Baghdad. More than 40 people were killed, and dozens more were wounded.
The election brought allegations of fraud from some Iraqi politicians, but international observers overall declared it fair and honest. The U.S. government has praised the election process. Today, top American military Commander Ray Odierno called on political parties to — quote — “refrain from inflammatory rhetoric or action.”