BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Secularist challenger Iyad Allawi’s coalition won the most seats in Iraq’s parliamentary election with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki running a close second, according to preliminary results released on Friday.
Allawi’s cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition won 91 seats to 89 seats for Maliki’s State of Law bloc.
The tight race and Allawi’s strong support in Sunni-dominated northern provinces raised the prospect of long and potentially divisive talks on forming a new government.
The Iraqi National Alliance, a Shi’ite grouping whose leaders have close ties to neighbouring Iran, came third with 70 seats, according to the full preliminary results released by the Independent High Electoral Commission, 19 days after the parliamentary election.
Underscoring the tensions in Iraq, two bombs killed at least 42 people and wounded 65 others in the town of Khalis, in Iraq’s northern Diyala province, shortly before the results were announced.