First, all the seats in Iraq's new 275-member national assembly will be allocated according to the percentage of the vote that each of the 84 political entities and 27 independent candidates received. By law, women made up at least a third of every party's slate, guaranteeing them an unusually strong voice in governing a Muslim country.
The assembly will then elect a president and two vice presidents. All three of them must then agree on a prime minister. The prime minister, the most powerful official in the new government, will select the heads of the government's major departments, but each of the nominees must be approved by a simple majority of the assembly.
The assembly then will turn to its biggest job, overseeing the drafting of Iraq's permanent constitution, which is supposed to be written by the middle of August. The draft must be endorsed by a referendum in mid-October so that another general election can be held before the end of this year.
The interim constitution, however, gives the national assembly and a constitutional committee that it is expected to appoint up to six additional months to get a new constitution approved and hold new elections.
The Iraqis may need the extra time: The constitution will fail if two-thirds of the voters in three of Iraq's 18 provinces reject it in the referendum, which means that both the Kurds and the Sunni Muslims may be able to veto it. If either of them does, the assembly must start over again.
(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.