Key Iraqi Cleric Sadr Takes Substantial Lead in Weekend Vote

Key Iraqi Cleric Sadr Takes Substantial Lead in Weekend Vote

Key Iraqi Cleric Sadr Takes Substantial Lead in Weekend Vote

The elections held Saturday were the first since Iraq declared victory over Islamic State fighters and the fourth since the 2003 US -led toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Iraq's electoral commission early on May 14 said Sadr's Alliance of Revolutionaries for Reform was in the lead with 10 of the country's 19 provinces reporting from the May 12 vote, including the population centers of Baghdad and Basra. The group's remnants, though, keep staging sporadic attacks across Iraq.

The election was marked by record low turnout. His supporters have fought with United States troops in the past.

The election commission said Sadr and Amiri each won four of the 10 provinces where votes had been counted.

Shiite militia leader Hadi al-Amiri's bloc, which is backed by Iran, is now in second place.

Iraqis voted for lists of applicants.

Election commission officials read out tallies for each candidate list on national TV.

The preliminary results are a setback for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who, despite entering the election as the apparent frontrunner, appeared to be running third.

Celebrations erupted in Baghdad's Sadr City, an impoverished quarter that is home to some 3 million people and is named after the cleric's late father, Ayatollah Mohammad Sadq al-Sadr.

Fatah's strong result will be seen as a victory for Iran as it seeks to protect its interests in the Iraq, including the militias it finances and has sometimes directed to fight alongside its forces in Syria.

The mostly peaceful vote was marred by low turnout, with the election commission putting it at 44.5 percent, far below the 60 percent recorded in the previous election and the lowest since the USA -led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Al-Sadr is a staunch foe of Iranian and American influence in Iraqi politics.

The results unexpectedly showed former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was touted as a serious challenger to Abadi, lagging behind.

Even if Abadi's Victory Alliance wins the most seats, he still must negotiate a coalition government, which must be formed within 90 days of the election.

If parliament chooses him as prime minister, Abadi will remain under pressure to maintain that balancing act amid tensions between Washington and Tehran over the nuclear accord. He had no powerful political machine of his own when he took office.

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