Four days after the final results of Iraq's landmark 30 January elections were released, the electoral commission announced it would certify them after studying dozens of complaints.
  
"The announcement of the certification of the results will take place today and the names of the winning candidates will also be announced," commission member Adil al-Lami said.

The figures released on 13 February put turnout at 58%, or almost 8.5 million voters, and gave the main coalition of Shia religious parties backed by Grand Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani a comfortable victory, with 48.1% of the vote.
  
The ticket grouping the two main Kurdish parties was the other winner, mustering more than a quarter of the votes, while the list of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was a distant third with 13.8%.

Far from settled

Several sources in the winning Shia list had said on Tuesday that interim Vice-President Ibrahim Jaafari had been preferred as a candidate for prime minister, but the issue does not appear to have been fully settled.

Despite his main rival for the country's top job, interim Finance Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi, dropping out, Ahmad Chalabi protested that the selection process had excluded his party.

"Those in charge of the United Iraqi Alliance list are to meet on Thursday to try to reach agreement on a candidate's name," a Chalabi aide said, adding that his leader was the best to govern the country.

Former US favourite Chalabi is a 
top prime ministerial contender

However, the odds are low for Chalabi, seen as one of the least consensual candidates on the winning Shia ticket and whose honeymoon with Washington came to an abrupt end over graft allegations.

Chalabi is head of the Iraqi National Congress and was a member of the now dissolved Iraqi Governing Council.

Jaafari boasts wider popularity in Iraq as head of the country's oldest Shia party and has been pledging to extend a hand to the ousted ruling elite Sunni Arab community.
  
But secular Shia and Kurds have warned against imposing a conservative brand of Islam such as that prevailing in neighbouring Iran. 
  
Islamic state opposed

"Kurds will oppose setting up an Islamic republic if this question is asked by other political forces in Iraq," Adnan Mufti, a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headed by Jalal Talabani, declared on Wednesday.

"Kurds will oppose setting up an Islamic republic"

Adnan Mufti,
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan

Kurdish official Sami Shursh added: "What Kurds want is a republican regime founded on the principle of rotation of power, with a parliamentary system, a separation of powers and a separation of religion and the state."

The vast majority of Kurds in Iraq are Sunni Muslims. The PUK and the KDP swept to victory in the Kurdish provinces of Sulaimaniyah, Arbil and Dohuk, where they will control the autonomous parliament of 111 seats.
  
Their alliance is also due to take 75 seats in the National Assembly, having won the northern provinces of Tamim and Nineveh, home respectively to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and Mosul, Iraq's third city.
  
Kurds want Kirkuk to be the capital of their autonomous region.

Several candidates on the winning Shia list, backed by spiritual leader al-Sistani, have said they do not want to set up an Islamic republic in Iraq, but they have yet to dispel all fears.