Iraq rivals jostle for power after Sadr's shock win

Moqtada Al Sadr shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote. Alaa al Marjani  Reuters

Preliminary results have shown Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder Abadi's "Victory" alliance did much more poorly than anyone anticipated, coming in third place in Saturday's elections.

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.

Tallies put the Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters who helped battle Daesh in second place, followed by incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's bloc.

Sadr is an Iraqi nationalist who opposes both the USA and Iran meddling in Iraqi affairs.

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

The election came as the country deals with the disenfranchisement of the country's Sunni minority.

Sadr's bloc did not run in the remaining two provinces, Kurdish Dohuk and the ethnically mixed oil province of Kirkuk.

Sadr, 44, led an alliance of several groups, including Sunni businessmen and Communists.

He can not become prime minister as he did not run in the election, though his apparent victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job. The commission gave no indication on when further results would be announced. Asked about the United States government's possible softened position toward Sadr and his alleged proximity to Riyadh, Hassan Danaiefar told Entekhab news site on May 15, "Some of this talk is speculation". More than 2 million people are displaced by war, a lot of them Sunnis.

While speculation swirls, the next concrete step remains completing the vote count and firming up the final makeup of Iraq's new 329-seat parliament.

On Sunday night, officials from Iraq's election commission announced the nearly full returns from 10 of Iraq's 19 provinces, including Baghdad and Basra.

His spokesman, Saleh al-Obeidi, said in an interview in Baghdad on Tuesday that Mr. Sadr's movement is seeking allies who agree to its three-plank manifesto - ending the practice of awarding ministries on sectarian quotas, fighting corruption and allowing independent technocrats to manage key government agencies.

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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