Iraq counts votes as record abstentions hit first post-IS poll

Key Iraqi Cleric Sadr Takes Substantial Lead in Weekend Vote

If the surprise results are confirmed then it would throw open the race for Iraq's new premier, following the first elections after the defeat of IS.

The most serious threat to Mr Abadi is Hadi al Ameri, a former commander of Iran-backed units that fought IS.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi performed poorly across majority Shiite provinces that should have been his base of support.

The elections held Saturday had been the primary since Iraq declared victory over Islamic State fighters and the fourth because the 2003 US -led toppling of Saddam Hussein.

The announcement Sunday night comes a day after polls closed across Iraq.

Election officials are still counting the ballots that were cast on Saturday. Full results are due to be officially announced on Monday.

Al-Abadi sought to retain his publish as prime minister after overseeing the army defeat of the IS motion, however confronted stiff competitors from his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, in addition to al-Sadr and the Fatah alliance of candidates with paramilitary ties.

Entrenched corruption, the influence of Iran and the future of U.S. forces now in Iraq are other issues that have dominated the run-up to the election.

More news: Russia, Germany speak about preserving Iranian nuclear deal

The ranking of these blocs can still change with results yet to be announced from eight provinces, including Nineveh, which has the second-largest number of seats after Baghdad.

His chief rivals are political parties with closer ties to Iran, as well as the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a staunch nationalist who campaigned against government corruption.

Members of the national election commission read out vote tallies for each candidate list in each of the 10 provinces on national TV.

The nationwide popular vote does not directly correspond to the amount of seats each list gains in parliament.

Abadi, a British-educated engineer who came to power four years ago after Islamic State seized a third of Iraq's territory, received USA military support for Iraq's army to defeat the Sunni Muslim militant group even as he gave free rein to Iran to back Shi'ite militias fighting on the same side.

According to media reports a total of 6,990 candidates from 87 lists (parties) are contesting for 329 seats with almost 2,011 female candidates who are guaranteed 25 percent, or 83, of the seats. Until the new prime minister is chosen, Haider al-Abadi, the current PM will continue to officiate.

It is the first poll in the country since Islamic State was defeated.

Dozens of alliances ran for workplace in these elections and months of negotiations are anticipated earlier than anybody alliance can pull collectively the 165 required seats.

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