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Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr leading in Iraq’s election

14 May 2018, 10:04:00

With over half the votes counted, powerful Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the leading contender in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, a remarkable comeback after being sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.

While final results for Iraq's parliamentary election are expected later on Monday, early results show Iran-backed paramilitary commander Hadi al-Amiri's bloc to be in second place, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s list in third.

Results from eight provinces are yet to be announced, including from Nineveh – which has the second-largest number of seats after the capital Baghdad. 

The parliamentary elections on Saturday serve as the first national referendum since the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in 2017.

The vote was widely seen as a verdict on Abadi's tenure and his pledge to be more inclusive of Iraq's Sunni minority.

PM Abadi heads the Nasr Coalition (Victory of Iraq), its name capitalising on his government's victory over ISIL in 2017.

Many analysts have seen the British-educated Abadi, a Shia who as prime minister nurtured ties with Washington and Tehran, as potentially winning a second term as prime minister.

"The country has just overcome ISIL which has affected the way voters see the election. Everyone is hoping for change and they see Abadi as a possible force for that change because of his victory over ISIL," Ahmed Tariq, an Iraqi professor of international relations at Mosul University, told Al Jazeera ahead of the vote.

Abadi has been mainly concerned with fending off Shia Muslim groups other than Sadr's alliance, which are seeking to pull the country closer to Tehran.

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