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Iraqi Election Frontrunner Moktada al-Sadr Courts Partners to Govern

16 May 2018

Tallies put the anti-establishment Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters who helped battle ISIS in second, and incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's bloc back in third.

Alliance of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is set to win Iraq's parliamentary elections - an unexpected outcome that has caught the attention of Iranian media. The country is also waiting to hear results from Kirkuk, an oil-rich city disputed by Baghdad and Iraq's northern, autonomous Kurdish administration. Today, he's rebranded himself as a populist outsider who will fight corruption and Iran's interference in Iraqi affairs.

Sadr's gains have called into question the presence of USA forces in Iraq, where more than 5,000 troops are indefinitely deployed to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

The initiative could trump Sadr's own coalition-building efforts but it risks angering the cleric's supporters who are yearning for a clampdown on corruption among establishment figures.

Despite the election setback, Abadi might still be granted a second term in office by parliament and on Monday he called on all political blocs to respect the results and suggested he was willing to work with Sadr to form a government.

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"Given the unexpected results that Nasr achieved, the chance of Abadi becoming the [next] prime minister has decreased, especially since the [coalition] under his leadership came in fifth in Baghdad", argued Tasnim.

Turnout was 44.52 percent with 92 percent of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission said, the lowest participation rate in Iraq's post-Saddam history.

The remaining uncounted ballots, mostly from Iraqis overseas, the security services, and internally displaced people voting in camps and elsewhere, might change the final seat tallies but only marginally. It says it will announce the remaining results Tuesday.

"Some political parties are suspicious of the elections results [in the Kurdistan Region], and the KDP is suspicious of the results in Sulaimani Province", read a statement, released to the press. Also at issue is the influence of Iran on the country: Iranian-backed Shiite militias who played a key role in defeating IS and were allied with the Shiite-led Baghdad government made significant electoral gains.

Political sources told AFP that two meetings have been held under Iranian guidance to bring together several political blocs.

Iraqi Election Frontrunner Moktada al-Sadr Courts Partners to Govern