Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

Iranian media react to populist cleric's victory in Iraq elections

Iranian media react to populist cleric's victory in Iraq elections

Meanwhile, the favourites entering the elections, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's Victory Alliance only managed to come first in the northern province of Nineveh, which was liberated by Iraqi forces from ISIS militants at the end of a year ago.

With more than half of votes counted, a nationalist alliance between Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr and mostly secular groups is in the lead.

Sadr for now appears to be ruling out an alliance with two other powerful forces inside Iraq: the Iran-backed Conquest Alliance of former anti-IS paramilitary fighters and ex-premier Maliki.

Sadr - the former leader of the anti-Western Mahdi Army during the United States occupation - ran on a campaign promising to stamp out corruption but has also been keen to distance himself from Iranian influence.

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

Counting was still ongoing three days after the first parliamentary poll since the defeat of the Islamic State group, but the fiery Shiite preacher´s grouping was in the lead with 16 of 18 provinces tallied.

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"Given the unexpected results that Nasr achieved, the chance of Abadi becoming the [next] prime minister has decreased, especially since the [coalition] under his leadership came in fifth in Baghdad", argued Tasnim.

MacCallum added that Trump's top military officials, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford Jr. both seek to continue to work with the Iraqi government in a constructive way.

The electoral commission released results from 10 of 19 provinces Sunday night, including tallies from Baghdad and Basra provinces. Whoever wins the most seats must negotiate a coalition government in order to have a majority in parliament.

The final results are due to be announced later on Monday, triggering what are expected to be lengthy negotiations to form a new coalition government.

O'Neill said al-Sadr cleverly renamed his "Mahdi Army" the "Peace Brigade" and said the name can be easily used as a propaganda tool to hurt people like Trump who oppose it.

After the announcement of the partial election results, supporters took to the streets of Baghdad's Sadr City district - named after his late father - to celebrate. They suggest Iraqis increasingly want to move towards civic-based politics that encompass people regardless of their background and sect.

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