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Cleric Muktada al-Sadr won Iraq vote, former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki closer: official

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Iraq’s Shia groups have dominated governments since the US-led invasion in 2003

Baghdad:

The party of Shia Muslim cleric Muktada al-Sadr was the biggest winner in the Iraqi election on Monday, increasing the number of seats they hold in parliament, according to preliminary results, officials and a spokesman for the Sadrist movement.

Former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki looked set for the next biggest victory among Shia parties, preliminary results showed.

Iraq’s Shia groups have dominated governments and government formation since the 2003 US-led invasion, which toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and brought a Shia majority and Kurds to power.

Sunday’s election was held several months ago, in response to mass protests in 2019 that toppled a government and sparked widespread anger against political leaders whom many Iraqis say have killed themselves at the cost of the country. has enriched.

But a record low turnout suggested that the vote, seen as an opportunity to regain control from the ruling elite, would do little to dislodge the sectarian religious parties in power since 2003.

A count based on preliminary results from several provinces and the capital, Baghdad, verified by local government officials, suggested that the Sadr had won more than 70 seats, which, if confirmed, could have considerable influence in forming the government.

However, Sadar’s group is one of several that would have to enter talks to form a coalition capable of dominating parliament and forming an administration, a period of jockeying for the position that could take weeks or longer.

Sadar broadcast a live speech on state TV claiming victory and promising to free a nationalist government from foreign interference.

“We welcome all embassies that do not interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs,” he said. He said the celebration would take place on the streets “without weapons”.

Sadr has increased his power over the Iraqi state since coming to power for the first time in the 2018 election, where his coalition won 54 seats.

The unlikely populist cleric has been a prominent figure and frequent kingmaker in Iraqi politics since the US invasion.

It opposes all foreign interference in Iraq, whether by the United States, against which it fought an insurgency after 2003, or by neighboring Iran, which it has criticized for its close involvement in Iraqi politics.

Sadr, however, is regularly in Iran, according to officials close to him, and has called for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, where Washington maintains a force of about 2,500 in the continuing fight against Islamic State.

Preliminary results also showed that pro-reform candidates who emerged from the 2019 protests had won multiple seats in the 329-member parliament.

Iran-backed parties with links to militia groups accused of killing some of the nearly 600 people killed in the protests won fewer seats in 2018 than in the last election, according to preliminary results and local officials.

Kurdish parties won 61 seats, the result showed, including 32 for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which dominates the government of the Autonomous Kurdish Region of Iraq, and 15 for the Patriotic Union of its rival Kurdistan Party.

Iraq’s state news agency reported that the Takaddum coalition of Sunni parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi won 38 seats, making it the second-largest seat in parliament. Maliki’s State of Law Coalition 37. ranked third overall with

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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