Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

Iraqi Election Frontrunner Moktada al-Sadr Courts Partners to Govern

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With most votes counted, a bloc headed by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and another led by a militia leader are ahead, voting officials are quoted as saying.

In a 2010 election, Vice President Ayad Allawi's group won the largest number of seats, albeit with a narrow margin, but he was blocked from becoming premier for which he blamed Tehran.

Saturday's election is the first since the defeat of ISIL previous year.

Mr. Sadr, who once called for attacks on American forces, capitalized on this widespread discontent by rebranding himself in recent years as a champion of the poor, a firebrand against corruption and a patriot who rails against outside interference by Iran as well as America.

A source familiar with ongoing talks between Iraqi political parties told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday that the head of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qassem Soleimani is now in Baghdad to meet with Shia parties in an attempt to prevent Sadr from choosing the new Premier.

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The race to become Iraq's next prime minister appears wide open as Muqtada al Sadr's alliance looked to be in the lead after the first elections since the defeat of Daesh.

Whether he can convince Abadi - a key member of the establishment Dawa party that has dominated Iraq for years - to turn his back on his former stablemates and team up remains a major question. Since he did not run for a seat, he will not be eligible for the role. The group overran a third of Iraq in 2014.

According to a participant, the aim has been to unite Abadi and Maliki - bitter foes despite coming from the same Dawa party - alongside the Conquest Alliance, which looks set to come second in the election.

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.

The initiative could trump Sadr's own coalition-building efforts but it risks angering the cleric's supporters who are yearning for a clampdown on corruption among establishment figures.

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