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Muqtada al-Sadr's coalition in the lead in Iraqi elections

Sairoun Alliance, which includes the Communist Party, in first place

MUQTADA AL-SADR looks set to become Iraq’s kingmaker, with early results yesterday showing his coalition with Iraqi communists ahead in the country’s general election count.

The firebrand Shi’ite cleric formed an electoral grouping that included the Iraqi Communist Party and other secularists to contest Baghdad’s first national poll since the defeat of Isis.

By yesterday morning 95 per cent of the votes in 10 of Iraq’s 18 provinces had been counted, with results showing a lead for Mr Sadr and the communists’ Sairoun Alliance.

While he is unable to stand as the country’s prime minister as he was not a candidate in the elections, he is expected to play a key role in the appointment.

The Sairoun Alliance was shown to have polled strongly in Baghdad and was ahead on the popular vote across Iraq with 1.3 million votes and 54 of the parliament’s 329 seats.

Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah Alliance appeared to be second, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite coalition polling 1.2m votes and picking up 47 seats.

The results come as a major blow to current prime minister and US ally Haider al-Abadi, whose Nasr coalition sitting in third place with 42 seats. His grouping had been among the favourites before the election. Its failure has been attributed to his failure to deal with corruption and a faltering economy.

Turnout in the election was lower than in previous polls at just 44.5 per cent, with Isis militants threatening to attack those taking part.

A complex electoral system means that there could be months of negotiations to form a coalition government, with no grouping having an outright majority.

It represents a stunning political comeback for Mr Sadr, whose Mehdi Army led the resistance to US forces occupying Iraq following the 2003 invasion of the country.

In 2016 his supporters stormed Iraq’s parliament in protest at Mr Abadi’s failure to tackle corruption and an economic crisis paralysing Iraq with unemployment rampant and public-sector wages left unpaid.

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