Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has emerged from the parliamentary elections with his State of Law coalition claiming the strongest share of the seats, giving him a strong chance at winning a third term.

According to preliminary results released on 19 May, Al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition clinched 92 seats out in the 328-strong parliament, putting the prime minister far ahead of other parliamentary blocs.

Crucially, the State of Law coalition outstripped the seats won by its two main Shia rival groups led by Ammar al-Hakim and Moqtada al-Sadr, which carried a combined 57 seats.

This will boost Al-Maliki’s mandate to build a consensus among the Shia parties to support his leadership for another four-year term and win the backing of Iran, which has played a decisive role in previous Shia leadership negotiations.

However, these behind-the-scenes talks are expected to last for between six months and a year.

The historic election on 30 April was the first since US troops exited the country in 2011. Over 9,000 candidates and more than 100 parties competed for influence in Iraq’s Council of Representatives.

According to the Independent High Electoral Commission, 62 per cent of the 22 million eligible voters cast ballots.

The vote came under backdrop of sectarian violence, which has led to 3,000 deaths this year and seen Al-Maliki’s government lose parts of the western Al-Anbar province to Sunni insurgent groups.