Shiite cleric al-Sadr leads in Iraq's initial vote results

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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.

Washington's preferred candidate, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has been knocked into third place.

It may be Abadi, Reuters reports, who has signaled a willingness to work with Sadr to form a working government. "And we stand with the Iraqi people's decisions". The group overran a third of Iraq in 2014.

What exactly do the results show?

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

The elections on 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.

How important is Moqtada Sadr?

After the 2003 US-led invasion, Sadr's Mahdi Army militia battled USA forces, and he is now calling for American troops to leave following last year's defeat of IS.


His fearsome Mehdi Army militia led two uprisings against USA forces, whose withdrawal he consistently demanded, and was blamed for the killing of thousands of Sunni Muslims in the sectarian violence that plagued Iraq in 2006 and 2007.

Sadr fled to Iran before a government crackdown on the Mehdi Army, but has since moved to distance himself from Iran.

In recent years, Mr Sadr has distanced himself from Iran and reinvented himself as an Iraqi nationalist and anti-corruption campaigner. The younger al-Sadr campaigned on a cross-sectarian platform of fighting corruption and investing in services and struck a surprising alliance with the Communist Party in the capital.

Full results were due to be officially announced late on Monday but the early ballots of 700,000 security personnel and diaspora remain uncounted, meaning Mr Al Abadi could still get a boost. One of them said the outcome signalled the start of a "new chapter for the Iraqi people". In 2010's election, vice president Ayad Allawi's National Alliance won the largest number of seats but he was blocked from becoming prime minister, which he blamed on interference from Tehran.

What will the next government inherit?

Claims of fraud are ubiquitous in large votes in countries like Iraq with a deep history of corruption.

Global donors pledged $30bn (£22bn) at a conference in February but Iraqi officials have estimated that as much as $100bn is required.

The remaining uncounted ballots, mostly from Iraqis overseas, the security services, and internally displaced people voting in camps and elsewhere, might change the final seat tallies but only marginally.

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