Shi'ite cleric Sadr wins Iraq vote on low turnout

Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's party was the biggest winner in an Iraqi election, increasing his seats in parliament, according to initial results and officials on Monday (October 12).

Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki looked set to have the next largest win among Shi'ite parties.

That's unlikely to change much in the status quo - Iraqi Shi'ite groups have held power since Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

Sadr himself has been a dominant figure - and often kingmaker - since then.

The unpredictable populist cleric broadcast a live speech on state TV claiming victory and promising a nationalist government free from foreign interference.

The election was billed as a chance to wrest control from the ruling elite, but many Iraqis did not believe they'd see fundamental change to the system, or an escape from poverty and economic misery.

Turnout hit a record low of just 41%.

Sunday's election was held several months early, in response to mass protests in 2019 that toppled a government and showed widespread anger against political leaders many Iraqis say have enriched themselves at the expense of the country.

A count based on initial results from several provinces, plus the capital Baghdad, suggested Sadr had won more than 70 seats.

If confirmed that could give him considerable influence in forming a government.

However, Sadr's group is just one of several that will have to enter negotiations to form a coalition - a period of jockeying for position that may take weeks, or longer.

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