Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Iraq election: Shia rivals of PM Abadi 'make gains'

Iraq election: Shia rivals of PM Abadi 'make gains'

Meanwhile, conservative Tasnim News Agency reported on May 15 that Sadr is seeking to reach a coalition with Ammar al-Hakim's Hikma (National Wisdom Movement) and Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Alliance Coalition to form a "technocrat" government. The group overran a third of Iraq in 2014.

Shiite scholar Moqtada al-Sadr, who heads the unit "In motion", won at the parliamentary elections in Iraq, announced with whom he will negotiate.

Before the elections, Iran publicly stated it would not allow Sadr's bloc - an unlikely alliance of Shiites, communists and other secular groups - to govern.

Officials on Tuesday announced results for two provinces where disputes had caused delays. "This shows to some extent that this election was an anti-establishment balloting, the results are a very clear indictment of the political elite".

In contrast, our correspondent adds, the early results are a setback for Mr Abadi, who had hoped to capitalise on the defeat of IS to bolster his own chances.

The announcement came just over 24 hours after polls closed across the country amid record low voter turnout.

Son of an assassinated Shia cleric, he rose to prominence after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Sadr and his militia played central roles in the wave of sectarian bloodshed that peaked in 2006-2007, but he eventually froze the militia's activities in a move the U.S. credited with sharply reducing violence.

Mr. Sadr, who once called for attacks on American forces, capitalized on this widespread discontent by rebranding himself in recent years as a champion of the poor, a firebrand against corruption and a patriot who rails against outside interference by Iran as well as America.

For this year's elections, Mr Sadr's party and its allies campaigned on a platform of fighting corruption and investing in public services.

The Reformist Shargh newspaper wrote that the surprising results of the Iraqi elections may signal a greater Saudi influence in Baghdad.

Claims of fraud are ubiquitous in large votes in countries like Iraq with a deep history of corruption.

Despite winning the popular vote and controlling the most seats, Sadr will not become prime minister because he did not run in the election, but his victory puts him in position to choose someone for the job. More than 20,000 homes and businesses were destroyed in the second city of Mosul alone.

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.

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