updated 1/20/2006 8:15:07 AM ET 2006-01-20T13:15:07

The election commission said Friday that an alliance of Shiite religious parties won the biggest number of seats in Iraq’s new parliament but too few to rule without coalition partners. Sunni Arabs gained seats over the previous balloting.

Commission official Safwat Rasheed said the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance captured 128 of the 275 seats in the Dec. 15 election, down from the 146 it won in the January 2005 balloting. It needed 138 to rule without partners.

A Sunni ticket, the Iraqi Accordance Front, won 44 seats. Another Sunni coalition headed by Saleh al-Mutlaq finished with 11 seats, Rasheed said. A few other Sunnis won seats on other tickets.

That will give the Sunni Arabs a bigger voice in the legislature than they had in the outgoing assembly, which included only 17 from the community forming the backbone of the insurgency. Many Sunnis had boycotted the January vote.

Kurds saw their seat total reduced. An alliance of the two major Kurdish parties won 53 seats, down from the 75 they took in the January 2005 vote.

A rival Kurdish ticket, the Kurdish Islamic Group, won five seats, a gain of three from the outgoing parliament.

A ticket headed by secular Shiite former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi won 25 seats, down from 40 in the outgoing assembly.

Politicians have four days to contest the results, which were largely in line with preliminary returns following the balloting. Officials then will have 10 days to study any complaints before they certify the results and parliament convenes to appoint a new government.

U.S. officials hope that a greater Sunni voice in the new parliament and government will help defuse the insurgency so American and other international troops can begin withdrawing.

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