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Sadr calls for broad coalition following Iraq election 'win'

Sadr is set to become one of Iraq's most powerful political figures [AFP]

Date of publication: 15 May, 2018

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Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is set to be the surprise winner of national elections, with the final results of the polls due to be announced soon.
Iraqi firebrand political figure Muqtada al-Sadr is set to be announced the surprise winner of the country's elections and prepared for his new status as government titan by making a call for national unity.

With Sadr's Alliance of Revolutionaries for Reform coalition [Saairun] in the lead as 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces are counted, it now appears the Shia cleric will become Iraq's main powerbroker.

Counting is still ongoing but Sadr's coalition - which is dominated by the Sadrist Movement and the Iraqi Communist Party - is believed to have won at least 54 of the 329-seat parliament, making it the largest political forces in the country, according to Al Jazeera

This would be a blow for the US-backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's al-Nasr bloc, along with former premier Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law alliance and the Iranian-backed, semi-political wing of the Hashd al-Shaabi militias called al-Fatah.  

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

"We are Sayirun (Marching) with Hikma (Wisdom) and al-Wataniya (Patriotism) so that the Iradah (Will) of the people be our aim and to build Jilan Jadidan (a New Generation) and to witness Taghir (Gorran/Change) to the better and for the al-Qarar (Decision) to be Iraqi," the tweet read, according to Rudaw, punning on the political party names in Iraq.

"So we raise the Bayariq (Banners) of al-Nasr (Victory), and let Baghdad, the capital, be Hawiyatuna (Baghdad Is Our Identity) and for our Hirakuna (Movement) Democratic (possibly KDP) towards the formation of a paternal government from technocratic Kawadur (Cadres) without partisanship."

Among those mentioned were the Shia National Wisdom Movement [Hikma], Sunni al-Wataniya coalition, and Kurdish Gorran Party.

Shia militia alliance al-Fatah are expected to come second, while Abadi's party should come third.

Sadr has portrayed himself as an anti-sectarian, anti-corruption and Iraqi nationalist candidate with no ambitions for political office.

He has also said he opposes foreign intervention in Iraq, including from Baghdad's neighbour Iran which has become a major power in the country since the 2003 US-led invasion.
 
During those years Sadr's militias fought US military forces and remains a staunch opponent of Washington.

He has moved closer to his former regional adversary Saudi Arabia and viewed by some as a more conciliatory candidate to Iraq's Sunni population, although many still fear the firebrand cleric.

Abadi's coalition could be another contender in Sadr's coalition.

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