BAGHDAD Iraq's Supreme Court certified the final results of a March 7 parliamentary election on Tuesday, an important step toward the formation of a new government.
The high court approval allows electoral blocs to begin serious negotiations to form a government after an election that produced no clear winner. A cross-sectarian coalition led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi won two more seats than a mainly Shi'ite group headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"Based on the articles of the constitution we have decided to approve the election results," the court's chief judge, Midhat al-Mahmoud, said.
The final certification of the results comes nearly three months after an election Iraqis hoped would help stabilise their nation after years of sectarian war. But the inconclusive vote exposed deep divides and opened the door to insurgents determined to disrupt the political process.
Because no coalition won a majority in Iraq's 325-seat parliament, Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish coalitions have been jockeying for position in the new government.
Maliki's State of Law bloc, which won 89 seats, has announced a union with the third-place finisher, the Iraqi National Alliance, to form a single bloc in parliament. Together the two groups would have 159 seats, just short of a majority.
Allawi has warned that an alliance of Shi'ite groups that attempts to exclude Iraqiya, which rode strong support from minority Sunnis to 91 seats in parliament, could trigger renewed sectarian violence.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Suadad al-Salhy; writing by Jim Loney; editing by Peter Graff)