Fiery cleric, paramilitary leader surge at Iraq elections

A man walks past a campaign poster of Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi ahead of the parliamentary election in Najaf

Iraq's Sairoon coalition, led by opposition leader Muqtada al-Sadr, came in first in Saturday's parliamentary polls, while the pro-government Al-Fatih coalition, led by Hadi al-Amiri, came in second, according to unofficial results. As the results stand, al-Sadr's bloc will be able to take a leading role in the political horse-trading to find a compromise candidate. By the end of the announcement, al-Sadr's list had the highest popular vote, followed by al-Amiri's.

Only 44 percent of voters turned out - the lowest in the four elections held since Saddam's ouster in 2003.

Results from eight provinces are yet to be announced, including from Nineveh - which has the second-largest number of seats after the capital Baghdad. Sadr is also an opponent of the U.S. having troops in Iraq, and could push to end that open-ended deployment.

BAGHDAD — The surprisingly strong showing of a ticket backed by maverick cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraqi elections over the weekend will force USA officials to recalculate how best to proceed in the region at an especially sensitive moment. Sadr portrays himself as an Iraqi nationalist and previous year met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia who is staunchly opposed to Iran.

The ballots of some 700,000 security personnel who voted and some one million Iraqis overseas were yet to be tallied up, meaning Abadi could get a boost five months after he announced victory over ISIS.

If confirmed by Iraq's electoral commission, the results could upend the nation's political balance.




The head of the list is Hadi al-Ameri, a long-time ally of Tehran, whose forces ended up battling alongside the U.S. to oust the jihadists.

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

Whoever wins the election will have to contend with the fallout from U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal, a move Iraqis fear could turn their country into a theatre of conflict between Washington and Tehran.

Abadi - who came to power as ISIS swept across Iraq in 2014 - has been a consensus figure who balanced off the United States and Iran.

"We are joyous", said Jaafar Abdeljaleed, 28, who added that his father was killed fighting USA -led forces in 2003.

The Pentagon and US Central Command, which oversees the Middle East, declined to say Monday how the outcome of the election could impact the presence of American troops.

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