The Iraqi parliament started its first session on Monday after three months of political stalemate following the March 7 parliamentary elections.

Kurdish lawmaker Fouad Maassoum, the second—oldest member, headed the session after senior Iraqiya List member Hassan al—Alawi declined to preside over the session for “health reasons”, members said.

Security measures were taken around the parliament building, but no roads were closed.

Political tension followed the election results which showed that former prime minister Iyad Allawi’s Secular—Sunni Iraqiya List beat the rival State of Law coalition of incumbent premier Nuri al—Maliki by just two seats.

Mr. Allawi’s list won 91 seats in the 325—member parliament, compared to 89 for Mr. al—Maliki’s alliance.

The parliament will elect a president for the country, who will then invite the head of the largest bloc to form the new government.

Both Mr. Allawi and Mr. al—Maliki are competing to head the future government. Mr. Allawi insists he has the right to form a new government because his bloc won the highest number of seats.

Meanwhile, Mr. al—Maliki says he has the largest bloc in the parliament with 159 deputies, after forming the National Alliance with the Ammar al—Hakim’s Iraqi National List.

However, that total is still four seats short of a majority.

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