Iraq Awaits New Government As Votes Are Counted Officials say 62 percent of eligible voters turned out for Sunday's election, and final results are expected within a few days. No coalition is expected to win an outright majority, so the one with the largest number of votes will be tasked with cobbling together a government with other partners.

Iraq Awaits New Government As Votes Are Counted

An electoral worker starts the sorting and counting process for the parliamentary elections at a polling station in Baghdad. Hadi Mizban/AP hide caption

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Hadi Mizban/AP

An electoral worker starts the sorting and counting process for the parliamentary elections at a polling station in Baghdad.

Hadi Mizban/AP

As ballots are counted, Iraq's political parties Monday were forecasting who held the lead in Sunday's election as the jockeying begins for the formation of a new government.

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Turnout was 62 percent of the country's 19 million eligible voters, in spite of scores of bombs, roadside attacks and explosions aimed at keeping people away. Election officials do not expect to have official results for several more days.

In the latest test for Iraq's fragile democracy, about 6,200 candidates from 86 political factions are vying for 325 parliamentary seats. While the count continues, and political wrangling follows, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will remain in charge as a caretaker until a new government is formed.

Is Anyone Leading In The Tally So Far?

The State of Law coalition led by Maliki, a secular Shiite, is reported to have thrived in parts of Baghdad and in the Shiite heartland in the south. But his gains may not be enough to establish a government without allying with another major party. Another contender that appears to have done well is secular Shiite Ayad Allawi. A former prime minister, Allawi leads the Iraqiya alliance, a coalition of secular Sunnis and Shiites, which seems to have attracted many votes in Sunni areas like Anbar province.

Who Hasn't Done Well?

Early estimates say some of the biggest losers seem to be the Shiite alliance of the Iranian-backed Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and members of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's party. It looks like they have lost ground among Shiite voters in the south to Maliki's party.

What About U.S. Troops?

President Obama congratulated the Iraqis for voting and said everything was still on track to reduce the number of U.S. forces by about half — to 50,000 — by the end of August. At that time, the U.S. combat mission would end, Obama said. But he added that U.S. forces that remained in Iraq would take part in counterterrorism operations with Iraqi security forces, as well as protect American civilians and soldiers based there.

Is More Violence Likely?

Officials fear that if the process of establishing a new government takes too long, it could spark a conflict among Iraq's rival factions. There is an expectation — almost a resignation — among Iraqis that it will take time to form a new government. They need only refer to recent history: When Iraq last held parliamentary elections in December 2005, a new government didn't sit until May 2006.

Another potential trigger, though, is if Maliki's coalition wins a slew of seats, but other coalitions band together to push him out. That could translate into trouble in the streets with the millions who voted for him.

There is also potential for trouble there if Shiite officials from parties that did not do well in the election balk at giving up their privileges — including security guards and SUVs. If they end up losing their seats, that could also lead to more violence.