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Shiite Islamists to shape new Iraq

The election gave a Shiite Islamist slate more than 47 percent, a Kurdish alliance 25 percent, and Allawi's list 14 percent.

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In the past week, unarmed Shiite Arabs have been a particular target of insurgent attacks, with deadly bomb blasts outside two Shiite mosques, a hospital in the mostly Shiite town of Musayyib, and an armed raid on a Baghdad bakery. In all, at least 100 civilians were killed in attacks during the week.

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The violence has cast a pall over what is otherwise a joyful day for millions of Iraqis, with most residents of Baghdad rushing to get home before nightfall rather than staying out to celebrate the results.

US officials had hoped Sunni voters would defy insurgents and turn out in large numbers to vote, thereby sending a message to fighters that they're in a tiny minority. But most Sunni Arabs did not go to the polls. In the overwhelmingly Sunni Anbar province, only 2 percent of adults voted. In largely Sunni Salahuddin, Hussein's home province, just 32 percent voted.

Though Allawi's list has some Sunni Arabs on it, the two Sunni parties that didn't boycott the election did poorly, and the assembly will have far fewer Sunni Arabs than their 20 percent share of the population would warrant. The election list of Sunni interim President Ghazi Al-Yawar won about five seats, while the list of Adnan Al-Pachachi, a former top diplomat and exile, failed to win a single seat.

While Sunni Arab groups are fighting for a variety of reasons, they are bound by the common expectation that their once-privileged position is coming to an end.

Shiite leaders have repeatedly offered olive branches to Sunni groups with ties to the insurgency, offering them a say in the writing of the constitution, whatever the election returns. But now they will be tested by the demands of the people who have brought them to power.

"I think the situation is going to get worse from here,'' says Hodayer Abbas, who repairs air conditioners in Baghdad. "I'm not sure how the government should solve the problems, but they shouldn't give roles in the government to the fighters. They're murderers and that shouldn't be rewarded."

Hussein routinely used vicious collective punishment against Shiite and Kurdish communities, both of whom defied his government. Now these two groups hold most of the cards in parliament.

But with no party holding the two-thirds of parliament needed to control the government, coalitions will have to be made.

There are vast differences between the religious Shiites and the secular leaning Kurds, who want to maintain the de facto autonomy they won in the 1990s thanks to the US-patrolled no-fly zone that protected them from the Iraqi Army.

The UIA says it wants either Ibrahim Jaafari of the Dawa Party or Adel Abdul Mahdi of SCIRI to be Iraq's next prime minister. The Kurds say they want Jalal Talabani, a veteran Kurdish leader, to be made president.

While it's possible the two sides will come to an arrangement, the Kurds also want to incorporate Kirkuk, the northern city that serves as a hub for Iraqi oil production, into their region, something that the main Shiite parties oppose.

Mr. Allawi has been scrambling to protect his position, flying to the Kurdish area this week to form an alliance. His secular leaning leaves him with more in common with the Kurds than the religious Shiites, but the two groups together still have fewer seats than the UIA.