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AFP
May 16, 2018

Cleric eyes govt as election upset rocks Iraq

World

AFP
May 16, 2018

BAGHDAD: Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr on Tuesday eyed a broad coalition after appearing to deal a blow to both Iranian and American influence with a shock election triumph that has upended Iraqi politics.

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. Victory for the veteran nationalist´s Marching Towards Reform alliance with Iraq´s communists — pitched an anti-corruption outsider force — would be a slap in the face for Iraq´s widely reviled ruling establishment. Sadr — who has ruled himself out of becoming prime minister — looks likely to be the key powerbroker and has already mooted a technocrat government of some dozen parties that bridge sectarian divides.

But with his group set to be far from a majority in parliament, wrangling over any potential coalition should take months — and there remain major obstacles ahead that could thwart Sadr´s ambitions. The elections Saturday — hit by record abstentions — saw a clear rejection of the Iraqi elite that has run the country since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Tallies put the anti-establishment Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters who helped battle IS in second, and incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi´s bloc back in third.

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