Iraq's election results expected in two days

Rivals of Iraqi PM 'make gains' in vote count

With most votes counted, a bloc headed by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and another led by a militia leader are ahead, voting officials are quoted as saying. As the results stand, al-Sadr's bloc will be able to take a leading role in the political horse-trading to find a compromise candidate.

The vote Saturday saw a record low turnout, with 44 per cent of eligible voters casting ballots.

During a televised speech on Monday, Abadi called on all political parties to accept the results of the Iraqi parliamentary elections, expressing his readiness for the formation of the next administration. In the years after 2003 invasion of Iraq, Sadr and the militia he controlled became a major thorn in the side of USA military, waging a brutal and costly insurgency against coalition troops. Sadr has led two uprisings against U.S. forces in Iraq and is one of the few Shi'ite leaders to distance himself from Iran.

Both Mr Al Sadr and Mr Al Ameri are long-time political veterans well-known to Iraqis, but both campaigned to sweep the country's reviled elite from politics.

Multiple Shi'ite blocs dominate Iraq's political scene, and are historically all cozy with the nation's two main allies, Iran and the US. While his Mahdi army was once regarded as being heavily reliant on Iranian-supplied expertise, Sadr has now positioned himself as an opponent of Iranian influence - at least when his rivals such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani are involved.

An official at the US State Department remained coy ahead of the definitive tally, telling Agence France-Presse "we are awaiting the announcement of the official results and look forward to the formation of the new government".

Both Sadr and the leader of the ex-combatant Conquest Alliance, Hadi al-Ameri, have pitched themselves as looking to sweep clean Iraqi politics.

Reuters calculations based on the document showed Sadr had won the nationwide popular vote with over 1.3 million votes and gained around 54 of parliament's 329 seats.

The remaining uncounted ballots, mostly from Iraqis overseas, the security services, and internally displaced people voting in camps and elsewhere, might change the final seat tallies but only marginally.

Sadr leads the al-Sairoon Coalition (The Marchers) that brings together his Sadrist Movement and the Iraqi Communist Party.

The vote came just days after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Abadi - who came to power as IS swept across Iraq in 2014 - has been a consensus figure who balanced off the USA and Iran.

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