Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Moqtada al-Sadr poised for victory in Iraqi election

Moqtada al-Sadr poised for victory in Iraqi election Moqtada al-Sadr poised for victory in Iraqi election
Charlie Simmons | 16 May, 2018, 14:02

While incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was considered the most likely victor, the alliance of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has very hard relationships with the United States, is the likely victor in a surprise twist, according to preliminary results based on more than 91 percent of the votes cast in 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces.

The Sairun bloc, led by influential cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, has, however, shocked observers by emerging as the frontrunner.

Washington's preferred candidate, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has been knocked into third place.

In recent years, Mr Sadr has distanced himself from Iran and reinvented himself as an Iraqi nationalist and anti-corruption campaigner.

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

Partial returns of the 2018 vote — the first since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group — were announced late Sunday by the Iraqi electoral commission and put al-Sadr's political alliance in the lead in four provinces, including Baghdad.

"If we want to change things then the prime minister needs to come from Marching Towards Reform", said Salah Jamal, 24.

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The election came as the country deals with the disenfranchisement of the country's Sunni minority. The commission gave no indication on when further results would be announced.

The US has called for an "inclusive government, responsive to the needs of all Iraqis". There appears to have been a low turnout on Saturday, with Riyadh Al Badran, the electoral administration chief of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), indicating turnout was just 44 per cent.

"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.

Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads the sectarian Sayirun (On the Move) Coalition, said he would not form a coalition with Maliki "in any case".

Seats in parliament will be allocated proportionally to coalitions once all votes are counted.

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.

Celebrations erupted in Baghdad's Sadr City, an impoverished quarter that is home to about 3 million people and is named after the cleric's father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, who was killed by suspected agents of Saddam Hussein in 1999.

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