Iraqi Shiite cleric set to name winning coalition after his ‘national champion’ victory

Saturday was a good day for Iran, which benefited from Iraq’s general election campaign by helping to prepare the ground for the departure of American forces later this year. Sadr City — a sprawling…

Iraqi Shiite cleric set to name winning coalition after his 'national champion' victory

Saturday was a good day for Iran, which benefited from Iraq’s general election campaign by helping to prepare the ground for the departure of American forces later this year. Sadr City — a sprawling Shiite slum in Baghdad — turned out in heavy support for the Iranian-backed Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who won by a landslide.

Al-Sadr is also a senior member of the powerful Shiite alliance that now holds control of parliament. He was leading with about 90 seats in the 325-seat parliament, according to unofficial tallies. His Shia alliance is set to form a government by setting up a three-way coalition government.

Al-Sadr has said he would respect all laws and regulations and seek to improve security and construction in the country. Al-Sadr is a longtime nemesis of US forces and had called on Iraqis to boycott Sunday’s vote.

He is also a long-time nemesis of US forces and had called on Iraqis to boycott Sunday’s vote.

Al-Sadr has said he would respect all laws and regulations and seek to improve security and construction in the country.

The Iranian-backed party led by Iraq’s outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki finished second, with about 89 seats, according to Interior Ministry official Ahmed al-Assadi. Al-Maliki vowed to immediately open a dialogue with parliament on forming a new government.

The official announcement of final results is expected to be made later Saturday.

On Tuesday, voter turnout was reported to be among the highest ever for a nationwide election, in part because Shiite militiamen forced many candidates to withdraw from the election in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. But turnout was also high among Iraqis with no religious affiliation, and tens of thousands showed up to vote in Baghdad’s Sadr City, part of the sprawling Shiite slum.

Al-Sadr, who was emboldened by the victory of the Shiite militia and dubbed his political movement the “Peace Brigades,” is commonly referred to as a “national champion” for his insurgency against US forces.

Kurds ruled Iraq, along with its western and northern areas until the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Sectarian violence erupted soon after. In the worst day of violence in over a decade, twin bombings killed more than 60 people on March 20, 2006. More than 500 Iraqis were killed in Iraq the day. Thousands more were injured, after attacks in Iraq killed the largest number of coalition troops in a single day. Over the past decade, the number of Americans killed in combat in Iraq has dropped from 534 to 131.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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