Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s bloc wins Iraq election

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A political bloc led by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a long-time adversary of the United States who also opposes Iranian influence in Iraq, has won the country’s parliamentary election, the electoral commission said on Saturday.

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr meets with ambassadors of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Kuwait, in Najaf, Iraq May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

Sadr himself cannot become prime minister as he did not run in the election, though his bloc’s victory puts him in a position to have a strong say in negotiations. His bloc captured 54 parliamentary seats.

The bloc led by Hadi al-Amiri, who has close ties with Iran and heads an umbrella group of paramilitaries who played a key role in defeating Islamic State, came in second with 47 seats.

The Victory Alliance, headed by incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, took third place with 42.

Sadr’s victory was a surprising change of fortunes. The cleric, who made his name leading two violent uprisings against U.S. occupation troops, was sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.

Reporting by Michael Georgy and Raya Jalabi; Editing by Leslie Adler

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