Iraqi election victor Al-Sadr hints at alliances to form government

16 May, 2018, 08:18 | Author: Hope Soto
  • US embassy violence sparks fear Trump is roiling Mideast                         Read more

Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric whose Mahdi Army bloodied the nose of the USA military in the battle of Fallujah in 2004 that left eight Kellogg, Brown and Root transport drivers and three US soldiers dead and who was considered an "outlaw", has won Iraq's parliamentary election.

The votes in the Kurdish provinces of Dohuk and Kirkuk are still to be counted, but their results will not affect al-Sadr's victory.

The Fatah alliance (Conquest) was second, and Nasr bloc (Victory), of Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, was third.

The surprising upset in elections this weekend by Mr. Sadr's unlikely alliance of communists, Sunni businessmen and pious community activists comes amid long-simmering anger at the established politicians who have controlled government since Iraq's first democratic election in 2005 after the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Sadr rose to prominence in the wake of the USA invasion, when his militia fighters fought a bloody insurgency against American troops.

Supporters in his impoverished Baghdad stronghold, Sadr City, were hopeful that victory could spell improvements. Sadr has ruled himself out of becoming prime minister.

But Sadr has grown increasingly pragmatic over the years and formed a cross-sectarian electoral alliance emphasizing Iraqi nationalism over loyalty to Iranian clerics and American military and political backing.

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"We have tried all the others", Jamal insisted.

In a surprising move past year, he visited regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, as Tehran's rival Riyadh looks to increase its involvement in Iraq.

The protracted horse-trading ahead comes as surging tensions between the USA and Iran after Washington's withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran have sparked fears of a tug-of-war over Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iran's former ambassador to Iraq has denied the speculations about Sadr approaching Saudi Arabia.

Political sources told AFP that two meetings have been held under Iranian guidance to bring together several political blocs.

A participant said Qassem Suleimani, the foreign operations chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, was in Baghdad to try to broker a coalition among Sadr's Shiite rivals.

The final vote count is yet to be completed before confirming the final make-up of Iraq's new 329-seat parliament.

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