Shiite alliance wins plurality in Iraq
Kurdish faction vows to nominate candidate for president
The United Iraq Alliance, backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, wins plurality.
Kurds celebrate their performance in Iraq's election.
A suicide car bomb at a police checkpoint kills at least 17 people.
|IRAQI ELECTION RESULTS|
Total votes cast: 8.56 million
Al-Sistani group: 4.08 million
Kurdish group: 2.17 million
Allawi group: 1.17 million
Source: Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi leaders began looking ahead to forming a National Assembly and filling top posts after the release of "final uncertified" election results.
Political parties have three days to file objections before they are certified.
The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq announced Sunday that the Shiite-backed United Iraqi Alliance won a plurality of votes in the January 30 elections but fell short of an outright majority.
The combined Kurdish parties, meanwhile, will nominate Jalal Talabani to be president of Iraq, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh told CNN on Sunday. (Key players)
Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, the predecessor to the interim government that took over June 28, 2004.
Saleh, a member of the Kurdish alliance, said he was "proud" of the Kurdish participation in the election.
"This has been a long, arduous journey for us, to be accepted in the capital of Iraq and as national players," he said.
The Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of Iraq, were brutally repressed under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Saleh said it was imperative that the new government include all of Iraq's peoples, however.
"We cannot afford another era of conflict and turbulence," he said.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, another Kurdish official, said a "marathon of negotiations" comes next. Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a member of the UIA, told CNN that the election was "like a national wedding."
"We are heading towards formation of a national reconciliation government," he said. "We are going to spare no time in including all communities -- Sunnis, Shia, Arab and Kurds and Turkoman and Kurdo-Assyrians, Assyrians.
"This is going to be one of the most inclusive and certainly the most representative government in the history of Iraq," he said.
Ahmed Chalabi, a UIA member seeking the nomination for prime minister, called the win "a great victory."
"We will have an assembly which is elected by the people and a government which is completely legitimate," said Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who provided some of the faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Interim Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, a UIA member considered the favorite for prime minister, welcomed the announcement of Talabani's presidential nomination.
"Why not?" Mahdi said. "I am very encouraged really to see such names."
Adnan Pachachi, a secular Sunni leader, told CNN he was "disappointed" that his party mustered only about 0.1 percent of the vote nationwide.
But he called the elections "a good thing" and said he doesn't question their legitimacy.
Turnout was 58 percent
"This is a new birth for Iraq, a free Iraq," election commission spokesman Fareed Ayar said.
Of about 8.56 million votes cast in the election, the UIA received 4.08 million, the combined Kurdish parties garnered 2.17 million and the Iraqi list of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi got 1.17 million.
CNN calculates that those numbers would give the UIA about 130 seats on Iraq's 275-seat National Assembly, the Kurds about 70 seats, and the Iraqi list about 40 seats.
Some 58 percent of Iraq's registered voters turned out for the elections, despite violence that killed more than 40 people.
In Washington, President Bush on Sunday welcomed the results.
"I congratulate the Iraqi people for defying terrorist threats and setting their country on the path of democracy and freedom," he said. "I congratulate every candidate who stood for election and those who will take office once the results are certified."
Turnout was low, however, in many Sunni-dominated areas. In Anbar province, Iraq's largest and home to the Sunni strongholds of Ramadi and Falluja, only 2 percent of voters cast ballots.
"We were disappointed, naturally, because of the very small, low turnout in many areas," said Pachachi, who was involved in the U.S.-backed governing council and the interim government. "It made it impossible for us to be represented on the National Assembly."
Assembly to draft constitution
The National Assembly will draft a constitution, and pick the country's next president and two vice presidents. The president will select a prime minister. (Structure)
The constitution must be drafted by August 15 and submitted to a national referendum by October 15. (Timeline)
Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population and were persecuted under the regime of Saddam Hussein, who is a Sunni Muslim.
There are concerns the Sunni Arab population -- about 20 percent of Iraq's estimated 25 million people -- will look upon the results as illegitimate. Two influential Sunni groups did not participate in the elections.
But Pachachi said he was committed to ensuring that Sunnis are represented in the writing of the constitution.
"I have a feeling that many of the Sunni parties that boycotted the elections are having second thoughts now," he said.
The UIA's win was not surprising -- but that it failed to receive a majority of votes was unexpected.
The United Iraqi Alliance includes major Shiite parties, as well as other Shiite organizations and some smaller Kurdish, Sunni Muslim and minority groups.
Shiite Muslim Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistanti, the UIA's chief backer, supported the elections and is considered by many to be the most revered and most influential leader among Iraq's 15 million Shiite Muslims. (Full story)
The announcement of the election results had been delayed while some ballots were recounted and others were ruled invalid.
In Istanbul, Turkey's foreign ministry issued a statement Sunday expressing concern over voting irregularities and doubts that the results represent all of Iraq's ethnic groups.
"The flaws lead to serious hesitations as to whether the goal of an interim parliament can be achieved," the statement said.
It cited allegations that thousands of ethnic Kurds relocated to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to vote, tipping the election to benefit Kurdish politicians and take power away from ethnic Turkmens.
Turkey has also expressed concern that a political victory in Iraq could embolden Kurdish separatists.
But Zebari said Turkey should not worry about Kurdish separatism in Iraq.
"All their fears are misplaced," he said. "Iraq will remain united."
Other developmentsMasked gunmen Sunday killed a pair of high-ranking Iraqi police officers in a drive-by shooting in western Baghdad, Iraqi police said. Majs. Mohammed Maizer and Wasfi Baderaldeen were standing outside their car in the al-Amriyah neighborhood when masked gunmen sprayed them with bullets. Three Iraqi police officers were wounded Monday when three mortars from insurgents landed outside al-Rasafa police station in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of al-Adamiyah, police said. Gunmen shot and killed two Iraqi army officers and a soldier Sunday in the northwest Baghdad neighborhood of al-Kadimiya, an Iraqi police officer said. The police official said insurgents ambushed a car carrying Col. Jadaan Ramah Farhan, Col. Hassan Taha Mohammed and Sabri Nameer, a soldier. A pipeline supplying oil to a power station in the northern Iraqi city of Dibbis was damaged by an improvised explosive device, an official with Iraq's Northern Oil company told CNN Monday. According to the official, it will take fire fighting teams a couple of days to put out the fires.
CNN's Enes Dulami, Caroline Faraj and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.