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Iraqi cleric al-Sadr leads in early election results

Iraqi cleric al-Sadr leads in early election results

Rankings could change, with results still to be reported from eight provinces.

Partial results have shown that cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's alliance is in the lead of Iraq's parliamentary elections.

Incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's coalition is in third place.

Unofficial results compiled by Reuters reporters in southern provinces also indicated that Sadr, a firebrand cleric who led a violent uprising against USA troops from 2003-2011, appeared to be making a strong showing. Voter turnout was around 44 percent. Results are due to be officially announced on Monday. As with most countries that have such representational systems, the bloc with the plurality gets first crack at trying to secure allies for a majority government. His supporters celebrated in Baghdad.

The Shia-led administration of Mr Abadi has won praise because of the struggle against IS militants, also security has vastly improved throughout the country.

Abadi was viewed as a frontrunner before the election.

He derives much of his authority from his family.

His father, highly respected Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, was murdered in 1999 for defying Saddam Hussein. His father's cousin, Mohammed Baqir, was killed by Saddam in 1980.

Amiri leads the Badr Organization, which was the backbone of the volunteer forces that helped to defeat IS along with Iraqi government troops and US -backed Western coalition forces. Abadi - who came to power as IS swept across Iraq in 2014 - is a consensus figure who has balanced off the United States and Iran.

If parliament chooses to grant him a second term, Abadi will remain under pressure to maintain that balancing act amid tensions between Washington and Tehran over the nuclear accord.

Abadi, a British-educated engineer, was seen by some Iraqis as lacking charisma and ineffective.

Political power in Iraq is traditionally divided along sectarian lines among the offices of prime minister, president and parliament speaker.

The alliance is headed by Hadi al-Amiri, a former minister of transport with close ties to Iran who became a senior commander of paramilitary fighters in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group.

Meanwhile, Amiri spent more than two decades fighting Saddam from exile in Iran, and speaks fluent Farsi. Al-Sadr is a staunch foe of Iranian and American influence in Iraqi politics.

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