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Allawi's coalition wins most seats in Iraq vote

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Iraq election results
  • Ex-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's bloc now must work to form Iraqi coalition government
  • Allawi's Iraqiya coalition edges out Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition 91 seats to 89
  • Demonstrators want ballots counted again by hand
  • Prime minister also has called for manual recount

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya coalition won the most seats in Iraq's parliamentary elections, according to results issued Friday by Iraqi election officials.

Allawi's bloc edged out Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition by two seats in the final count of Iraq's March 7 national election for the 325-member parliament, the officials said.

Allawi's bloc won 91 seats and the State of Law coalition gained 89. The Iraqi National Alliance, dominated by Shiite parties, got 70 seats and a Kurdish alliance got 43.

"We thank the people of Iraq for the confidence they have shown in us and our vision for Iraq, led by an inclusive, effective and non-sectarian government," Allawi said in a statement.

"We extend our hand to all blocs, both those that were successful and those that weren't to strive to form such a government, one that represents all Iraqis -- those who voted for us, and those who didn't," he said.

Allawi thanked his rival, al-Maliki, and those who served in his government, adding, "We hope they will respect the will of the Iraqi people, and we are sure they will continue to serve Iraq. We see a new beginning for strengthening relationships with the countries of the region and the countries of the world, and we see an opportunity to build exceptional relationships based on mutual respect with our neighbors Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait."

Now Allawi needs to begin the tough work of gathering at least 163 seats to forge a coalition government.

Allawi, who served as prime minister in 2004, is a secular Shiite whose bloc includes prominent Sunni Arab politicians, including Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.

Al-Maliki has asked for a manual recount as members of his State of Law coalition and other blocs have alleged voter fraud as the margin of votes separating the candidates has narrowed.

He has pledged to appeal the results to the federal court.

Video: Protesters call for recount

"The electoral commission refused our demand for a manual recount and insisted on refusing despite the demand of the president and my demands as a prime minister and the commander in chief of the armed forces," al-Maliki told reporters. "The reasons behind their refusal were unknown."

In a joint statement, U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill and Gen. Ray Odierno, commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, congratulated the Independent High Electoral Commission on completing the vote counting.

"With today's announcement, Iraq successfully passed another milestone in this historic electoral process," they said. "We support the findings of international and independent Iraqi observers, who have affirmed their confidence in the overall integrity of the election and have found that there is no evidence of widespread or serious fraud."

That view was echoed by U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley. Though the electoral commission has investigated and adjudicated a number of complaints, "international observers and the more than 200,000 domestic observers expressed their confidence in the overall integrity of the election and have found that there is no evidence of widespread or serious fraud," he said.

But the process is expected to take months, he said. Political entities may appeal to the Electoral Judicial Panel. After the appeals have been resolved, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court will certify the results. "Iraq will then move to seating a new Council of Representatives, choosing a president and forming a new government," Crowley said.

He called for all candidates and parties to accept the results, "refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and intimidation" and work to form a new government.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this story from Baghdad