Iraq PM Abadi appears ahead in poll

Iraq PM Abadi appears ahead in poll

BAGHDAD – Reuters
Iraq PM Abadi appears ahead in poll

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s list appears to be leading in Iraq’s parliamentary election, followed by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s alliance, an election commission source and a security official told Reuters on May 13.

The sources cited unofficial initial results.

Iraqis voted on May 12 in the first election since the defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants inside the country. Final results are expected on May 14.

Turnout was 44.52 percent with 92 percent of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission said -- significantly lower than in previous elections.

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

Those rivals were his predecessor as prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, and the leader of the main Shi’ite paramilitary group, Hadi al-Amiri, both closer than he is to Iran, which has wide sway in Iraq as the primary Shiite power in the region.

Unofficial results compiled by Reuters reporters in southern provinces also indicated that Sadr, a firebrand cleric who led a violent uprising against U.S. troops from 2003-2011, appeared to be making a strong showing.

If the Sadr list finished second, that would mark a surprise comeback by the cleric. Sadr has a zealous following among the young, poor and dispossessed but has been sidelined by influential Iranian-backed figures such as Amiri. Sadr has kept Tehran at a distance.

Sadr has formed an unlikely alliance with communists and other independent secular supporters who joined protests he organized in 2016 to press the government to see through a move to stem endemic corruption.

He derives much of his authority from his family. Sadr’s father, highly respected Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, was murdered in 1999 for defying Saddam Hussein. His father’s cousin, Mohammed Baqir, was killed by Saddam in 1980.

Whoever wins the election will have to contend with the fallout from U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to quit Iran’s nuclear deal, a move Iraqis fear could turn their country into a theatre of conflict between Washington and Tehran.