Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Al-Sadr's Sairoon bloc sweeps Iraq polls

Al-Sadr's Sairoon bloc sweeps Iraq polls

Abadi placed first in Iraq's second largest province, Nineveh, but he performed poorly in the rest of the country, coming in third and fourth place in most provinces, and fifth in Baghdad.

Unlike Abadi, a rare ally of both the United States and Iran, Sadr is an opponent of both countries, which have wielded influence in Iraq since a US -led invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 and thrust the Shi'ite majority into power.

The prime minister declared final victory over the ultra hardline group in December but it still poses a threat from pockets along the border with Syria and has continued to carry out ambushes, assassinations and bombings across Iraq.

Turnout was 44.52% with 92% of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission said - significantly lower than in previous elections.

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Sadr, known for leading a militia that carried out deadly attacks on US forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, did not run as a candidate himself and has no formal political role. "We are awaiting the announcement of the official results and look forward to the formation of the new government", a State Department official told Task & Purpose on Monday.

An election commission source said Abadi's Nasr (Victory) coalition was the frontrunner, followed by another Shiite bloc headed by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr commands the devotion of millions of Iraqis who have sent their sons and husbands to fight for his militia from the early days of the USA occupation. In the years after 2003 invasion of Iraq, Sadr and the militia he controlled became a major thorn in the side of United States military, waging a brutal and costly insurgency against coalition troops. The commission gave no indication on when more returns would be announced.

"We are prepared to contribute to the development and construction of Iraq", he concluded. Around 7,000 candidates, representing 205 political entities, vied for 329 seats in the parliamentary elections.

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Both Mr Al Sadr and Mr Al Ameri are long-time political veterans well-known to Iraqis, but both campaigned to sweep the country's reviled elite from politics. Endemic corruption has eaten at the government's financial resources. Sadr's father, highly respected Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq Al Sadr, was murdered in 1999 for defying Saddam Hussein. Prime Minister Hayder Abadi's faction may be a possibility, as Sadr has said it's possible they could form a government together.

His supporters celebrated in Baghdad.

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

Sadr is a ferocious critic of American policies in the Middle East, and his unexpected electoral haul immediately calls into question the continuing presence of USA troops in Iraq.

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

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