Monday, 24 September, 2018

Fiery cleric and a paramilitary boss lead Iraqi election race

Rivals of Iraqi PM 'make gains' in vote count Firebrand nationalist cleric Sadr leads Iraq parliamentary election
Faye Gross | 15 May, 2018, 15:22

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's list appeared to be leading in Iraq's parliamentary election, followed by influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's alliance, an Election Commission source and a security official said on Sunday.

Several senior political figures had previously told AFP that preliminary results put Abadi in the lead, on course to scoop 60 of the 329 parliament seats up for grabs. Reuters could not independently verify the document's authenticity but the results in it for the 10 provinces announced by the electoral commission matched those of the commission. While his Mahdi army was once regarded as being heavily reliant on Iranian-supplied expertise, Sadr has now positioned himself as an opponent of Iranian influence - at least when his rivals such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani are involved.

A similar fate could befall Sadr.

Abadi placed first in Iraq's second largest province, Nineveh, but he performed poorly in the rest of the country, coming in third and fourth place in most provinces, and fifth in Baghdad. After the 2003 U.S. invasion, Mr Al Sadr formed the Mehdi army militia to fight American troops and later commanded his paramilitary forces against ISIS.

Both Mr Al Sadr and Mr Al Ameri are long-time political veterans well-known to Iraqis, but both campaigned to sweep the country's reviled elite from politics. Iran has publicly stated it would not allow his bloc to govern.

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"Everybody is welcome to provide support to Iraq, but not at the expense of its sovereignty and independence", he added.

The election came as the country deals with the disenfranchisement of the country's Sunni minority.

Iraq has been ranked among the worlds most corrupt countries, with high unemployment, rife poverty, weak public institutions and bad services despite high oil revenues for many years. "Iraq first, eradicate corruption, and a technocratic government". Authorities are seeking as much as $88 billion for postwar reconstruction. His fathers cousin, Mohammed Baqir, was killed by Saddam in 1980.

Like the United States, Iran will now also have to recalibrate how to advance its interests in Iraq, where Sadr's independence has made him attractive to some of Iran's rivals in the Arab world. He also has said he is open to USA training of Iraq's military and regularly meets with US diplomats in Baghdad.

After the announcement that the Marching Towards Reform was ahead in Baghdad, supporters took the streets in the capital to celebrate a win.

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