Iraqi Election Frontrunner Moktada al-Sadr Courts Partners to Govern

Iraqi Election Frontrunner Moktada al-Sadr Courts Partners to Govern

Nationalist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is now on course to win the largest number of seats after the Iraqi election.

The IHEC found that Hadi al-Amiri's coalition is in second place, and current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's group is listed in third place. 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. The country is also waiting to hear results from Kirkuk, an oil-rich city disputed by Baghdad and Iraq's northern, autonomous Kurdish administration.

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.

The initiative could trump Sadr's own coalition-building efforts but it risks angering the cleric's supporters who are yearning for a clampdown on corruption among establishment figures. 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".

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Abadi offered a statement of congratulations to Sadr for his victory, and for encouraging a secure atmosphere during the vote.

Only 44.52 percent of about 24 million people eligible to vote participated in the consultation, a decrease of 15 percentage points, compared to 2014. It says it will announce the remaining results Tuesday.

Iraqi government officials approached by The New Arab's Arabic service neither confirmed nor denied the visit, but sources in Abadi's office said Soleimani was expected in Iraq because of the confusion produced by the election results. They suggest Iraqis increasingly want to move towards civic-based politics that encompass people regardless of their background and sect.

Sadr - who has ruled himself out of becoming PM - should be the key powerbroker and is already eyeing a coalition of around a dozen groups to reach a majority. The other winning blocks, though, will have to approve his nomination. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow his bloc to govern.

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