Moqtada al-Sadr set for surprise comeback in Iraqi elections

Moqtada al-Sadr set for surprise comeback in Iraqi elections

Moqtada al-Sadr set for surprise comeback in Iraqi elections

Iraq's electoral commission says influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's alliance is the early front-runner in national elections, with official results in from just over half of the country's provinces. While Abadi is a rare ally of both the United States and Iran, Sadr has led two uprisings against USA forces and is one of the few Shiite leaders to distance himself from Iran. "We are awaiting the announcement of the official results and look forward to the formation of the new government", a State Department official told Task & Purpose on Monday.

Mr Al Sadr himself did not run in the election, so can not be appointed prime minister, but if his bloc's results are confirmed he may be in a position to determine Iraq's next leader.

"We are joyous", said Jaafar Abdeljaleed, 28, who added that his father was killed fighting USA -led forces in 2003.

The election came as Iraq is struggling to bring down soaring unemployment and reintegrate its disenfranchised Sunni minority.

That places him in the best position to select the country's next prime minister and set the course for how the nation emerges from a costly war against the Islamic State.

Also at issue is how to integrate the country's vast and predominantly Shiite militia structure into the security forces. But some Iraqis resent his close ties to Tehran.

The Shiite cleric first gained worldwide notice as a young militia leader who fought US troops after the 2003 invasion.

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. In 2014, he reorganized his fighters under the name the Peace Brigades - Saraya Salam.

Incumbent Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, who had sought to reach across Iraq's sectarian divides, was trailing.

The Conquest Alliance, made up of ex-fighters from mainly Iran-backed paramilitary units that battled the Islamic State group, was ahead in four provinces and second in eight others. The commission gave no indication on when further results would be announced. Participated in the elections 6990 candidates from 87 parties.

Seats in parliament will be allocated proportionately to coalitions once all votes are counted. Sadr's father, highly respected Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, was murdered in 1999 for defying Saddam Hussein.

The ballot saw a record low turnout, as only 44.5% of eligible voters headed to the polls in the lowest participation rate since the 2003 US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein.

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