Disillusionment appears to help Shiite cleric in Iraq vote

Rivals of Iraqi PM 'make gains' in vote count

Sadr is a ferocious critic of American policies in the Middle East, and his unexpected electoral haul immediately calls into question the continuing presence of US troops in Iraq.

The ballot Saturday saw a record low turnout, as only 44.5 percent of eligible voters headed to the polls in the lowest participation rate since the 2003 US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Sadr was not a candidate for Parliament and can not himself be elected prime minister.

"The people of Iraq showed that they can play a key role in consolidating Iraq's stability, tranquility and thriving economy as well as regional security under the guidance of religious scholars and through national unity", he noted.

Iraqi Prime Minister and head of the al-Nasr Coalition Haider al-Abadi has expressed his willingness to work and cooperate in forming a stable government free of corruption.

In the cleric's impoverished Sadr City neighborhood in Baghdad residents said they were hoping for improvements after the elections.

The electoral commission released results from 10 of 19 provinces Sunday night, including tallies from Baghdad and Basra provinces.




In a televised address Monday afternoon, Abadi hailed the "winning lists" and called on all sides to "respect the results", after calls for a recount in the multi-ethnic province of Kirkuk.

The final results were due to be announced later on Monday.

As a result, he can argue that he is the only credible politician representing a "national coalition" - but he would so from a much weaker position, said Kirk Sowell, the publisher of Inside Iraqi Politics, a newsletter.

The ballots of some 700,000 security personnel who voted and Iraqis overseas were yet to be tallied up, meaning Abadi could get a boost five months after he announced victory over IS. Despite that, al-Sadr's sophisticated political machine mobilized his loyal base of followers to go to the polls.

Iraq's many political factions mean a government may only be formed after drawn out negotiations. Dozens of alliances ran for office, and months of negotiations are expected before any one alliance can pull together the 165 required seats.

Abadi placed first in Iraq's second largest province, Nineveh, but he performed poorly in the rest of the country, coming in third and fourth place in most provinces, and fifth in Baghdad.

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