Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr meets with ambassadors of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Kuwait, in Najaf, Iraq, May 18, 2018.
Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr meets with ambassadors of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Kuwait, in Najaf, Iraq, May 18, 2018.

Iraq’s electoral commission said Saturday that a bloc led by populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who fought U.S. troops during the Iraq War, has won the most seats in Iraq’s national parliamentary elections.

Al-Sadr’s Marching Toward Reform alliance with Iraq’s communists won 54 seats.

The Conquest Alliance earned second place with 47 seats, while the Victory Alliance, headed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi came in third with 42.

Al-Sadr did not run for a seat in parliament and cannot become prime minister. But as head of a political alliance, he will play a major role in the deal-making and political wrangling that goes into putting together an Iraqi government.

The results of the May 12 election had been held up to determine whether a new electronic voting system used in the election was faulty.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this week that the U.S. stands by Iraqis’ electoral choices, despite al-Sadr’s surprise win.

Mattis praised Iraq’s move toward democracy.