Firebrand cleric Muqtada Sadr's alliance holds a surprise lead in Iraq elections

Firebrand cleric Muqtada Sadr's alliance holds a surprise lead in Iraq elections

Firebrand cleric Muqtada Sadr's alliance holds a surprise lead in Iraq elections

Influential Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, with realignment as a cross-sectarian anti-Iranian and pro-Arab nationalist figure, is a counterweight to the Conquest bloc and seemed the victor of the elections before this piece published. Despite the election setback, Abadi might still be granted a second term in office by parliament and on Monday he suggested he was willing to work with Sadr to form a government. It was competitive, fair and largely free of violence - a remarkable achievement for a country that until a few months ago was fighting a war against the Islamic State.

With over half the votes counted, powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the leading contender in Iraq's parliamentary elections, a remarkable comeback after being sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.

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 U.S. troops in Iraq.

"We're done with corruption and the corrupt, we've suffered for years, now everything will change", added another supporter in a black t-shirt.

Sadr has reinvented himself as an anti-graft crusader after rising to prominence as a powerful militia chief whose fighters battled United States troops after the 2003 invasion.

Iraqi Air Forces claim hitting major ISIS position in Syria's northern Al-Hasakah province.

Several parties, including those following Sadr's leadership, have committed themselves to a vision of a non-sectarian and technocratic government. Iran has publicly stated it would not allow his bloc to govern. Sadr, by contrast, has staked out an independent, nationalist position.

Whoever wins the election will have to contend with the fallout from U.S. 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's electoral list, however, fell far short of a majority. How the vote tally translates into parliamentary seats will be announced later this week, Iraq's election commission said. The other winning blocs would have to agree on the nomination. The commission did not announce how many seats each bloc had gained and said it would do so after announcing the results from the remaining provinces.

Sadr was not a candidate for Parliament and can not himself be elected prime minister. Unheard of for a Shiite candidate in Iraq, who tends to stick to campaigning in the south, Abadi wasn't able to attract enough support.

The election was the first since the government declared victory over so-called Islamic State (IS) past year.

The facility was completely destroyed, said the military.

The Pentagon and US Central Command, which oversees the Middle East, declined to say Monday how the outcome of the election could impact the presence of American troops.

Abadi is expected to do well in Nineveh province and its capital Mosul, which was liberated from ISIS by USA -backed Iraqi forces past year. However, ahead of Saturday's national election, he distanced himself from Iran.

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