He's Back: Muqtada Al Sadr Wins Big In Iraqi Elections

Rivals of Iraqi PM 'make gains' in vote count

An election commission source said Abadi's Nasr (Victory) coalition was the frontrunner, followed by another Shiite bloc headed by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Prime Minister Hayder Abadi's faction may be a possibility, as Sadr has said it's possible they could form a government together.

Saturday's election is the first since the defeat of ISIS previous year. Results from Kurdish province Dohuk and the ethnically-mixed oil region of Kirkuk are yet to be announced.

With results counted in more than half of Iraq's 19 provinces, electoral officials said the second-largest number of votes went to a political alliance led by Hadi al-Amiri, a former militia leader with strong ties to Iran.

An official at the US State Department remained coy ahead of the definitive tally, telling AFP "we are awaiting the announcement of the official results and look forward to the formation of the new government".

Those veteran politicians include al-Abadi, who was widely expected to win the election, and who is a moderate Shiite, the dominant group.

Al-Sadr said in Tweet that he was open to forming a coalition with al-Abadi to form a new government for Iraq.

Abadi was viewed as a frontrunner before the election. The groups also ran on a pledge of "Iraq First" - a rebuke to the outside powers many blame for recent instability, namely Iran and the United States.

Forty-four year old Sadr will not become prime minister as he did not run in the election but his nearly certain victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job.

Now, he has reinvented himself and has formed a political coalition with communists.

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Sadr derives much of his authority from his family.

Sadr's father, highly respected Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, was murdered in 1999 for defying Saddam Hussein.

Iraqis voted for rival lists of candidates. Reuters calculations based on the document showed Sadr had won the nationwide popular vote with over 1.3 million votes and gained around 54 of parliament's 329 seats.

According to a nation-wide poll conducted in March, 66 percent of the Iraqi people viewed Sadr favourably across most of Iraq's provinces.

Although he is primed to receive a considerable amount of votes, he does not have Tehran's backing and thought to be failed to muster an overall majority without striking a tricky coalition agreement with other blocs.

Tensions in the region have mounted - and in particular between the United States and Iran - partly because of President Trump's decision last week to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his bloc of parties are set to win Iraq's parliamentary election and placed into a position to determine the country's next prime minister after prelimary results showed them in the lead. He had no powerful political machine of his own when he took office. But the vote over the weekend offered evidence that populism may be replacing sectarianism as the defining force in Iraqi politics.

Amiri's Badr organisation played a key role in the battle against Islamic State.

The Iraqi elections also serve as a battleground for the USA and Iran, with Tehran continuing to wield significant influence over Baghdad.

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