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Shi'ite Cleric Al-Sadr's Coalition Leads in Iraq Poll


Followers of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, seen pictured on the poster, celebrate in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, early Monday, May 14, 2018.

Hundreds of supporters of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took to the streets of Baghdad Sunday night, celebrating the announcement of partial results of Iraq's parliamentary elections.

Iraq's electoral commission announced that al-Sadr’s coalition is the current front-runner in national elections, with official results in from just over half of the country's provinces.

Al-Sadr himself did not run in the election, but he holds sway over a coalition ticket that won by a large margin in the capital Baghdad.

An alliance of candidates with close ties to Iraq's powerful Shi’ite paramilitary groups came in a close second .

A victory by Al-Sadr's coalition would be a significant blow to the re-election campaign of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

If the results hold, al-Sadr, a strident critic of the United States, could have a major say in who will become Iraq's next leader.

Followers of Shii'te cleric Muqtada al-Sadr celebrate in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, early Monday, May 14, 2018.
Followers of Shii'te cleric Muqtada al-Sadr celebrate in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, early Monday, May 14, 2018.

The electoral commission said that results of the election to fill the country's 329-seat parliament are expected within two days.

Officials said that just 44 percent of eligible voters cast ballots on Saturday - the lowest voter turnout since Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003. Polling station officials blamed low turnout on increased security measures, voter apathy and irregularities linked to the new electronic voting systems.

As voters cast their ballots Saturday, airports and roads were shut down for security reasons. Last month, elements of IS still operating in Iraq, despite battlefield losses, threatened to attack anyone "participating in the elections."

While the overwhelming number of polling places around the country remained safe, early in the day an attack was reported south of the oil city, Kirkuk; a bomb was discovered at a polling place in Baghdad, and other reports of attempted attacks surfaced.

Heather Murdock contributed to this report.