The political coalition of influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took an early lead in Iraq’s national elections in partial returns announced late on Sunday by the Iraqi electoral commission.
An alliance of candidates linked to Iraq’s powerful Shia paramilitary groups was in second. 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 militant Islamic State (IS) extremist group.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi performed poorly across majority Shia-majority provinces that should have been his base of support. The announcement came just over 24 hours after polls closed across the country amid record low voter turnout. It included full returns from only 10 of the country’s 19 provinces, including the provinces of Baghdad and Basra.
Members of the national election commission read out vote tallies for each candidate list in each of the 10 provinces on national TV. By the end of the announcement, al-Sadr’s list had the highest popular vote, followed by al-Amiri’s.
Seats in parliament will be allocated proportionately to coalitions once all votes are counted. The commission gave no indication on when further results would be announced.
Celebrations erupted in Baghdad’s Sadr City, an impoverished quarter that is home to some three million people and is named after the cleric’s late father, Ayatollah Mohammad Sadq al-Sadr.
The younger al-Sadr campaigned on a cross-sectarian platform of fighting corruption and investing in services and struck a surprising alliance with the Communist Party in the capital. The strong showing could be a testament to al-Sadr’s loyal base of followers he maintains who cast their ballots despite a general mood of apathy that kept many Iraqis away from the polls.
Al-Sadr commanded fighters in the war against the IS group and headed a powerful militia that fought the United States (US) forces in Iraq prior to 201. —AP