Iraq PM Congratulates Sadr on Election Win, Suggests Need for Recount

Iraq PM Congratulates Sadr on Election Win, Suggests Need for Recount

Iraq's national elections commission says Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has taken the largest share of votes in the province that includes the formerly Islamic State-held city of Mosul.

Tallies put the anti-establishment Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters who helped battle ISIS in second, and incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's bloc back in third.

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

"What matters now is post-election alliances", said Balsam Mustafa, an Iraq expert and PhD candidate in Modern Languages at the University of Birmingham. In 2010's election, vice president Ayad Allawi's National Alliance won the largest number of seats but he was blocked from becoming prime minister, which he blamed on interference from Tehran.

Projecting himself as an Iraqi nationalist, Sadr has a zealous following among the young, poor, and dispossessed among Shia Iraqis, but had been sidelined by influential Iran-backed figures.

As a Marine commander, he saw USA troops killed by the Mahdi Army, mainly in the poor Baghdad district of Sadr City and in the holy city of Najaf, further south.

Prolonged negotiations between the main political groups are likely before a new government can be formed.

"So we will wait and see the results - the final results of the election".

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In a sign that he is angling to chart a different course, he visited regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia previous year, as Tehran's rival seeks to play a greater role in Iraq.

The protracted horse-trading ahead comes at a time of high tensions after Washington's withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran and fears of a tug-of-war over Iraq.

Iraq's larger neighbour to the east has major leverage over numerous top Shiite politicians and it already seems like it may be looking to block Sadr's path to power.

Political sources told AFP news agency on Tuesday that Tehran was already pushing meetings among his Shia rivals to seek a way to head off Sadr.

Suleimani has reportedly called for a union between Abadi's bloc, the Conquest Alliance of former anti-IS commander Ameri and former premier Nuri al-Maliki.

Reuters could not independently verify the document's authenticity but the results in it for the 16 announced provinces were in line with those announced by the commission.

While speculation swirls, the next concrete step remains completing the vote count and firming up the final makeup of Iraq's new 329-seat parliament.

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