Iraq election: Shia rivals of PM Abadi 'make gains'

Populist Cleric Sadr All but Wins Majority in Iraq Election

The Saudi Minister of the States of the Persian Gulf tamer al-Sabhan congratulated Iraq on the successful elections.

Shia Muslim alliance Saima, of Muqtada al-Sadr, won the general elections in Iraq, after counting 91 percent of votes in 16 of the country " s 18 provinces, it was reported here today.

Incumbent Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi's coalition, initially predicted to win re-election, trails in third.

The Pentagon said it was too soon to know what the results of the election might mean for the U.S. troop presence.

But he could rule by proxy.

The front-runner in Iraqi elections, the populist Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, wasted little time trying to prove to potential allies that he is serious about shaking up the government and cleaning up corruption as he worked to cobble together a governing coalition.

While Sadr's unlikely Marching Towards Reform alliance with Iraq's communists looks on course to be the biggest group in parliament - it faces many obstacles.

No single group is expected to gain an outright majority.

The announcement came just over 24 hours after polls closed across the country amid record low voter turnout. 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 Islamic State extremist group.

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

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After years on the sidelines, he has reinvented himself as a champion of the poor and linked up with secularists to battle corruption.

Explaining the factors behind Sadr's victory, the Reformist daily noted, "Muqtada al-Sadr, who has lately shifted his policies and turned to Riyadh, took advantage of combating corruption in his competition with his rivals and also maintained his own traditional supporters".

Despite a third place finish, Abadi could potentially still remain prime minister after the government coalition is formed.

"We have tried all the others", Jamal insisted.

"So we will wait and see the results - the final results of the election".

In a surprising move past year, he visited regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, as Tehran's rival Riyadh looks to increase its involvement in Iraq.

Political sources told AFP news agency on Tuesday that Tehran was already pushing meetings among his Shia rivals to seek a way to head off Sadr.

But after much manoeuvring, Allawi was eventually bested by Nuri al-Maliki, as Tehran helped engineer a union between two leading Shiite blocs to give him more seats.

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

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