Bloc of Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s wins Iraq election

Iraqi Shiite cleric and leader Moqtada al-Sadr (C-L) shows his ink-stained index finger and holds a national flag while surrounded by people outside a polling station in the central holy city of Najaf on May 12, 2018 (HAIDAR HAMDANI | AFP | Getty Images)

A political bloc led by populist Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a long-time adversary of the United States who also opposes Iranian influence in Iraq, has won the country’s parliamentary election, the electoral commission said on Saturday, Reuters reported.

Sadr himself cannot become prime minister because he did not run in the election, though his bloc’s victory puts him in a position to have a strong say in negotiations. His Sairoon electoral list captured 54 parliamentary seats, according to Reuters.

The Victory Alliance, headed by incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, trailed in third place with 42 seats, behind the Al-Fatih bloc, which won 47 seats, Reuters added.

Al-Fatih is led by Hadi al-Amiri, who has close ties with Iran and heads an umbrella group of paramilitaries that played a key role in defeating Islamic State.

Reuters also reported that the results were announced a week after Iraqis voted in a nationwide election, which produced surprising results amid a historically low turnout.

The nationalist cleric’s success could be a setback for Iran, which has steadily increased its influence in Iraq – its most important ally in the Middle East – since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, according to Reuters.

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