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Moqtada al-Sadr poised for victory in Iraqi election

Moqtada al-Sadr poised for victory in Iraqi election

The political coalition of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took an early lead in Iraq's national elections in partial returns announced late Sunday by the Iraqi electoral commission.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is facing a shock defeat in the country's first election since declaring victory over Islamic State in December.

Sadr, an opponent to both US and Iranian influence in Iraq, was followed by Iran-backed Shia militia leader Hadi Al Amiri's coalition.

Although al-Sadr won't be prime minister because he himself didn't run in the election, he will have the power to name the next leader-and this could seriously influence Iraq's politics and policies.

He is one of the few Iraqi politicians opposed to both the presence of American troops and the heavy influence that neighbouring Iran exercises over Iraq.

Under article 76 of Iraq's constitution, the right to form a government falls to the political bloc with the most seats. Al-Sadr said in Tweet he was open to forming a coalition with al-Abadi to form a new government for Iraq.

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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.

Recounts following disputes in the Dohuk and Kirkuk provinces have delayed any final announcement, but officials said a full tally should be out over the next two days.

Reuters could not independently verify the document's authenticity but the results in it for the 16 announced provinces were in line with those announced by the commission.

Meanwhile, conservative Tasnim News Agency reported on May 15 that Sadr is seeking to reach a coalition with Ammar al-Hakim's Hikma (National Wisdom Movement) and Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Alliance Coalition to form a "technocrat" government. Former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a close ally of Iran like Amiri, came in fourth with around 25 seats. Of more than 2 million Iraqis displaced by the war, the majority are Sunnis. The other winning blocs would have to agree on the nomination.

A similar fate could befall Sadr.

"We will not allow liberals and communists to govern in Iraq", Ali Akbar Velayati, top adviser to the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in February.