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Sadr eyes Govt as poll upset rocks Iraq

16 May 2018

Populist Shiite religious scholar Moqtada Sadr Tuesday eyed a governing coalition after dealing a blow to both Iranian and US influence with a shock election triumph that upended Iraqi politics. Incumbent Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi's coalition, initially predicted to win re-election, trails in third.

After being sidelined by Iranian-backed rivals for years, the apparent parliamentary victory marks a political comeback for Sadr, who didn't even officially run for prime minister in this year's elections.

But even then, his bloc might not necessarily form the next government.

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Iranian officials have already stated they will block Sadr's coalition.

While his family of religious scholars historically has close ties with the Islamic revolutionaries in Iran and he spent years living there, Sadr has now fallen out with Tehran and wants its overbearing influence slashed.

Sadr faces a hard act to herd together enough groups from across Iraq's fragmented political spectrum to form a government.

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The surprising upset in elections this weekend by Mr. Sadr's unlikely alliance of communists, Sunni businessmen and pious community activists comes amid long-simmering anger at the established politicians who have controlled government since Iraq's first democratic election in 2005 after the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein.

He can not become prime minister as he did not run in the election, though his apparent victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job. The group overran a third of Iraq in 2014.

Sadr for now appears to be ruling out an alliance with two other powerful forces inside Iraq: the Iran-backed Conquest Alliance of former anti-IS paramilitary fighters and ex-premier Maliki.

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Nineveh is Iraq's second largest province after Baghdad, which went to a list organized by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr eyes Govt as poll upset rocks Iraq