Sadr headed for first place in Iraq election -commission

People are seen casting their referendum vote on Sept. 25 2017 at a voting station in Kirkuk Iraq

People are seen casting their referendum vote on Sept. 25 2017 at a voting station in Kirkuk Iraq

Since the first elections following the 2003 USA -led toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Shiite majority has held the position of prime minister, while the Kurds have held the presidency and the Sunnis have held the post of parliament speaker.

Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that Sadr will be able to hand-pick a prime minister.

In the first election since ISIS was defeated in the country, Iran-backed Shia militia chief Hadi al-Amiri's bloc was in second place, while Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, once seen as the front-runner, trailed in third. It included full returns from only 10 of the country's 19 provinces, including the provinces of Baghdad and Basra. In the years after 2003 invasion of Iraq, Sadr and the militia he controlled became a major thorn in the side of USA military, waging a brutal and costly insurgency against coalition troops.

It is the lowest voter turnout rate in Iraq in the past 13 years. He has also broken ranks with Iraqs Shiite establishment by denouncing Irans involvement in Syrias civil war and its bid for expanded influence in Iraq. While former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance hopes to garner enough votes to affect the post-election coalition calculus.One common theme among the coalition blocs is the attempt to portray their blocs as cross-sectarian. Endemic corruption has eaten at the government's financial resources.

Sadr is distrusted by both the United States and Iran for his active opposition to both countries.

Tensions in the region have mounted — in particular between the United States and Iran — partly because of President Donald Trumps decision last week to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Tehran.

The ballots of some 700,000 security personnel who voted and Iraqis overseas were yet to be tallied up, meaning Abadi could get a boost five months after he announced victory over Daesh, in a voting that saw a turnout of 44 percent.

Sadr's electoral list, however, fell far short of a majority. Fahmy told his party's website that Abadi's bloc was "closer" to Sadr's than others.

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"We prefer to hold a manual recount of the vote throughout the Kurdish Regional Government to remove all doubts and maintain stability and security", the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) said in a statement.

Like his father, who saw Sistani as an "Iranian" interloper, Sadr is an Iraqi Arab nationalist. The PMF launched its own candidates in parliamentary races.

The Iraqi Air Force has struck a major Daesh position in Syria's northern Al-Hasakah province, Iraq's Defense Ministry said Monday.

In recent years, Sadr has made an effort to reach out to Sunni Moslems and other groups in Iraq.

The Pentagon and US Central Command, which oversees the Middle East, declined to say Monday how the outcome of the election could impact the presence of American troops.

A Pentagon spokesman told Eric Pahon that the USA government does not support any particular Iraqi candidate or party.

Turnout was low despite a sharp decrease in violence across the country, with threats from IS against the polls failing to materialise.

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