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What next for Iraq as cleric Sadr heads for election win?

15 May 2018

Nineveh is Iraq's second largest province after Baghdad, which went to a list organized by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric whose Mahdi Army bloodied the nose of the USA military in the battle of Fallujah in 2004 that left eight Kellogg, Brown and Root transport drivers and three US soldiers dead and who was considered an "outlaw", has won Iraq's parliamentary election.

He has extended a hand to a wide spread of parties - including the bloc of current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that lies in third place according to latest results.

A surprise election victory for fiery Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr appears to have shaken Iraq's political landscape at the expense of both the Iranian and American influence in the country.

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Al-Sadr block struck an alliance with the communist party and some civil Iraqi movements who joined forces in the last few years to protest corruption and lack of security in Iraq.

Sadr has led two uprisings against USA forces in Iraq and is one of the few Shia leaders to distance himself from Iran.

The elections on Saturday - hit by record abstentions - saw a clear rejection of the Iraqi elite that has run the country since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"We are ready to work and cooperate in forming the strongest government for Iraq, free of corruption", Abadi said in a live televised address.

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But with his group set to be far from a majority in parliament, wrangling over any potential coalition should take months - and there remain major obstacles ahead that could thwart Sadr's ambitions. The alliance is headed by Hadi al-Amiri, a former minister of transport with close ties to Iran who became a senior commander of paramilitary fighters in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group.

"If we want to change things then the prime minister needs to come from Marching Towards Reform", said Salah Jamal, 24.

Seats in parliament will be allocated proportionately to coalitions once all votes are counted.

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What next for Iraq as cleric Sadr heads for election win?