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

Howard TerryMay 16, 2018

While incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was considered the most likely victor, the alliance of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has very hard relationships with the United States, is the likely victor in a surprise twist, according to preliminary results based on more than 91 percent of the votes cast in 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces. USA -backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi tallied just over 1 million votes and will control 42 seats, and former US puppet Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki - who turned on the USA and cozied up to Iran - placed fourth and holds about 25 seats.

Over the weekend, Iraqis voted in the first general election since the country declared victory over Islamic State a year ago.

A political outlier before Saturday's ballot, Sadr is best known for leading the "fearsome" Mehdi Army in two insurgencies against United States troops in Iraq, following the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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.

Seats in parliament will be allocated proportionately to coalitions once all votes are counted. The group overran a third of Iraq in 2014.

Members of the national election commission read out vote tallies for each candidate list in each of the 10 provinces on national TV. Full results are due to be officially announced later on Monday.

He was followed by Amiri with more than 1.2 million votes, translating into around 47 seats, and Abadi with more than 1 million votes and about 42 seats.

But after 14 years, more than $1 trillion, millions of Iraqi dead and thousands of US troops killed and maimed, the USA now has less influence over Iraq than it had while former Central Intelligence Agency operative Saddam Hussein was in power.

In a 2010 election, Vice President Ayad Allawi's group won the largest number of seats, albeit with a narrow margin, but he was blocked from becoming premier for which he blamed Tehran.

Political sources told AFP that two meetings have been held under Iranian guidance to bring together several political blocs.

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