Iraqi Election Frontrunner Moktada al-Sadr Courts Partners to Govern

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Widespread disillusionment with Iraq's current political class appears to have helped influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr become the early front-runner in national elections marked by record low turnout.

Counting was still ongoing three days after the first parliamentary poll since the defeat of the hardline Wahhabi ISIS group, but the fiery Shia preacher's grouping was in the lead with 16 of 18 provinces tallied.

Abadi, who is the preferred candidate of the USA, looks set to come in third behind the Fatah (Conquest) alliance, led by former transport minister Hadi al-Amiri, who presides over the political wings of several Shia-led paramilitary forces.

Under article 76 of Iraq's constitution, the right to form a government falls to the political bloc with the most seats. Corruption has been at the top of Sadr's agenda for several years.

Iraqi firebrand political figure Muqtada al-Sadr is set to be announced the surprise victor of the country's elections and prepared for his new status as government titan by making a call for national unity. Closely associated with the Islamic revolutionary guard Corps is considered a puppet politician of Iran. The government should be formed within 90 days of the official results.

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Abadi and Maliki are bitter rivals despite coming from the establishment Dawa party that has dominated politics in post-Saddam Iraq. The group overran a third of Iraq in 2014.

Suleimani has reportedly called for a union between Abadi's bloc, the Conquest Alliance of former anti-Daesh commander Ameri and former premier Nouri al-Maliki.

Iraq's larger neighbour to the east has major leverage over numerous top Shiite politicians and it already seems like it may be looking to block Sadr's path to power.

Sadr made a witty suggestion on Twitter as to who might be included in a future ruling coalition.

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