Firebrand nationalist cleric Sadr leads Iraq election

People are seen casting their referendum vote on Sept. 25 2017 at a voting station in Kirkuk Iraq

People are seen casting their referendum vote on Sept. 25 2017 at a voting station in Kirkuk Iraq

High-profile cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Moving Forward bloc has a substantial lead.

Abadi, a rare ally of both the United States and Iran, was mainly concerned with fending off Shia Muslim groups other than Sadr's alliance, which are seeking to pull the country closer to Tehran.

The rankings could still change, with final results to be announced in a few days.

The Shia-led government of Al-Abadi has won praise for the fight against IS militants, and security has vastly improved across the country, the BBC reported.

Sadr has led two uprisings against USA forces in Iraq and is one of the few Shi'ite leaders to distance himself from Iran.

Abadi, a Shi'a who has sought to balance the competing influence of Washington and Tehran, finished third in six provinces but came in fifth in the capital.

MOSUL, Iraq-Iraqis voted this weekend in their lowest numbers since the country became a democracy, reflecting growing political disenchantment even after Islamic State's defeat rallied the country together.

Unlike previous elections, new electronic devices were used in Saturday's parliamentary elections to check election cards, fingerprints, and count ballots-a system meant to streamline the process and prevent fraud from taking place. Sadr and Amiri have comparable numbers of provinces, but Sadr's dominance in Baghdad, with its larger number of seats, may give him the plurality if things continue in this direction.

Shiite militia leader Hadi al-Amiri's bloc, which is backed by Iran, is now in second place.

Sadr has a zealous following among the young, poor and dispossessed but had been sidelined by influential Iranian-backed figures.

Sadr derives much of his authority from his family. His supporters celebrated in Baghdad.

His father, highly respected Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, was murdered in 1999 for defying Saddam Hussein.

The Conquest Alliance, made up of ex-fighters from mainly Iran-backed paramilitary units that battled the Islamic State group, was ahead in four provinces and second in eight others. It's reportedly supported by Iran.

Abadi, a British-educated engineer, was seen by some Iraqis as lacking charisma and ineffective.

Sadr portrays himself as an Iraqi nationalist and a year ago met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia who is staunchly opposed to Iran. He had no powerful political machine of his own when he took office.

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