Iraq prime minister Haider al-Abadi appears to be ahead in poll

14 May, 2018, 13:16 | Author: Carlos George
  • Key Iraqi Cleric Sadr Takes Substantial Lead in Weekend Vote

Final vote figures aren't expected for another day or so, but as of Sunday evening, preliminary votes showed a shocking turn in Iraq's weekend vote.

Iraq's electoral commission says influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's alliance is the early front-runner in national elections, with official results in from just over half of the country's provinces.

Leaks from the count indicated that Victory, the new party led by the incumbent prime minister, was on course to win the most MPs in the 328-seat parliament.

The tallied votes included full returns from only 10 of the country's 19 provinces. Officials said turnout was only 44 percent, the lowest ever since Saddam's ouster. As with most countries that have such representational systems, the bloc with the plurality gets first crack at trying to secure allies for a majority government.

Murdered Sadr has formed an unlikely alliance with communists and other independent secular supporters who joined protests he organised in 2016 to press the government to see through a move to stem endemic corruption.

The Iraqi air force has already carried out several air strikes against Islamic State in Syria since past year, with the approval of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and the USA -led coalition fighting Islamic State.

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Abadi was viewed as a frontrunner before the election. Abadi - who came to power as IS swept across Iraq in 2014 - is a consensus figure who has balanced off the United States and Iran.

He derives much of his authority from his family. His father's cousin, Mohammed Baqir, was killed by Saddam in 1980.

The Conquest Alliance, made up of ex-fighters from mainly Iran-backed paramilitary units that battled the Islamic State group, was ahead in four provinces and second in eight others.

Political power in Iraq is traditionally divided along sectarian lines among the offices of prime minister, president and parliament speaker.

But the defeat of Islamic State and Abadi's campaign to eradicate Iraq's rampant corruption improved his standing.

An alliance backed by Shia parliamentary groups and led by former minister Hadi al-Amiri was in second place. But some Iraqis resent his close ties to Tehran. Al-Sadr is a staunch foe of Iranian and American influence in Iraqi politics.

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