Iraq election: Shia rivals of PM Abadi 'make gains'

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An Iraqi woman shows her ink-stained index finger before a national flag after having cast her vote in the parliamentary election, in the capital Baghdad's Karrada district. Corruption has been at the top of Sadr's agenda for several years.

In a tweet he appeared to level in direction of a broad technocrat coalition with main blocs, together with Abadi's, however left fundamental challenger the Conquest Alliance off the record.

"Given the unexpected results that Nasr achieved, the chance of Abadi becoming the [next] prime minister has decreased, especially since the [coalition] under his leadership came in fifth in Baghdad", argued Tasnim.

Al-Sadr commands the devotion of millions of Iraqis who have sent their sons and husbands to fight for his militia from the early days of the US occupation.

The pinnacle of the record is Hadi al-Ameri, a long-time ally of Tehran, whose forces ended up battling alongside the U.S. to oust the jihadists. Both Sadr and Ameri are long-time political veterans well-known to Iraqis, but they pitched themselves as seeking to sweep clean the country's reviled elite.

"The electoral system has been hacked by some parties and the results will serve the Kurdish Regional Government's interests", Momen Yaseen Amin, a candidate on the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) in Iraqi Kurdistan told The National.

Explaining the factors behind Sadr's victory, the Reformist daily noted, "Muqtada al-Sadr, who has lately shifted his policies and turned to Riyadh, took advantage of combating corruption in his competition with his rivals and also maintained his own traditional supporters".

The protracted horse-trading ahead comes as surging tensions between the U.S. and Iran after Washington's withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran have sparked fears of a tug-of-war over Iraq. Or will it be a coalition between all the ethnic and religious groups of Iraq? The results have come as a shock to the Americans, who were convinced that the incumbent prime minister would gain enough seats to create a coalition with the moderate parties and thereby form a new government.

Voter turnout was at a low 44 percent, 15 percent lower than the turnout in the 2014 parliamentary elections. Full results are due to be officially announced later on Monday.

Crowds of primarily younger individuals waved flags and footage of the populist nationalist cleric Sadr whereas fireworks fired off into the evening sky.

"We have tried all the others", Jamal insisted.

The Reformist Shargh newspaper wrote that the surprising results of the Iraqi elections may signal a greater Saudi influence in Baghdad.