Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Iraq PM Congratulates Sadr on Election Win, Suggests Need for Recount

Populist Cleric Sadr All but Wins Majority in Iraq Election Iraqi municipality workers dismantle election posters in Najaf Iraq
Patty Aguilar | 16 May, 2018, 07:38

While incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was considered the most likely victor, the alliance of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has very hard relationships with the United States, is the likely victor in a surprise twist, according to preliminary results based on more than 91 percent of the votes cast in 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces.

Tallies put the anti-establishment Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters who helped battle Daesh in second, and incumbent Abadi's bloc back in third.

It may be Abadi, Reuters reports, who has signaled a willingness to work with Sadr to form a working government.

The announcement came just over 24 hours after polls closed across the country amid record low voter turnout. Full results are due to be officially announced later on Monday.

Widespread disillusionment with Iraq's current political class appears to have boosted Mr Al Sadr's coalition.

Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr's group were declared the winners of the Iraqi election after votes in 16 of 18 provinces were tallied. "This shows to some extent that this election was an anti-establishment balloting, the results are a very clear indictment of the political elite".

Mr Sadr fled to Iran before the Iraqi government launched a crackdown on the Mehdi Army and remained in self-imposed exile until 2011, after playing a key role in the reappointment of then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

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Claims of fraud are ubiquitous in large votes in countries like Iraq with a deep history of corruption.

Sadr rose to prominence in the wake of the United States invasion, when his militia fighters fought a bloody insurgency against American troops.

In 2016, his supporters stormed the parliament building in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone when the main political factions resisted their demands that Mr Abadi tackle corruption and replace the ministers in his cabinet with technocrats.

Iraq's complex electoral system means that the final make-up of the 329 seat parliament is still far from decided.

Observers predict Mr Abadi will try to form a deal with Mr Al Sadr, although the cleric's attitude towards Mr Al Abadi's bloc remains unknown. 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.

Accordingly, horse trading between the blocs will now assume a greater importance. Abadi has said he is ready to work with the victor of the election.

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