Shi’ite cleric wins sweeping victory in Iraqi elections

In a signal Iraq may be preparing to free itself from U.S. and Iranian influence, prominent Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr won a decisive victory in Iraqi parliamentary elections held on Monday.

With 91 percent of the vote tallied, al-Sadr’s Alliance of Revolutionaries for Reform (Sairoon coalition) held a formidable lead across Iraq, with the strongest support in Baghdad.

In collecting over 1.3 million votes, the Sairoon coalition, a union of the Sadrist movement and Iraq’s Communist Party, is expected to seat 55 new parliamentarians in Iraq’s Council of Representatives.

Running as a nationalist, al-Sadr’s base was largely among Iraq’s poor, young and dispossessed Shi’ite majority population.

Following al-Sadr was the al-Fatih bloc led by Hadi al-Amiri, which gained 47 seats.  Third in the vote was Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Coalition, which will seat 42 representatives.

A long-time critic of America and a former militia leader opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, al-Sadr, 44, is a known opponent of Iranian attempts to shape events inside Iraq.

In a post-election tweet making an oblique reference to both Washington’s and Tehran’s efforts to control Baghdad, al-Sadr wrote:  “Our decisions will be made in Iraq, not outside.  No to occupation; no to domination.”

The first election since ISIS was defeated, voter turnout was reported to be 44 percent, 15 percent lower than the previous election held in 2014.

Although al-Sadr’s coalition did not earn a majority required to for a government alone, Sairoon is expected to play a significant role in the selection of Iraq’s next prime minister.

Following the election losses to his party, Prime Minister al-Abadi expressed his willingness to form a coalition government “free of corruption.”

 

[The Guardian] [Kurdistan24] [Photo courtesy Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjan via Al Jazeera]