Shiite cleric al-Sadr leads in Iraq's initial vote results

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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.

Unlike Abadi, a rare ally of both the United States and Iran, Sadr is an opponent of both countries, which have wielded influence in Iraq since a USA -led invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 and thrust the Shiite majority into power.

Widespread disillusionment with Iraq's current political class appears to have helped influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr become the early front-runner in national elections marked by record low turnout.

Mr. Sadr, who once called for attacks on American forces, capitalized on this widespread discontent by rebranding himself in recent years as a champion of the poor, a firebrand against corruption and a patriot who rails against outside interference by Iran as well as America.

Sadr faces a hard act to herd together enough groups from across Iraq's fragmented political spectrum to form a government. Corruption has been at the top of Sadr's agenda for several years.

Over the weekend, Iraqis voted in the first general election since the country declared victory over Islamic State previous year.

Abadi - who came to power in 2014 as IS rampaged across Iraq - has balanced off the USA and Iran during his time at the helm. It says it will announce the remaining results Tuesday.

Members of the national election commission read out vote tallies for each candidate list in each of the 10 provinces on national TV.

Reports state that the alliance of the Sadr Movement and the Iraqi Communist Party won the approval of just over 1.3 million people and the gain of 54 seats in a parliament of 329. Former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a close ally of Iran like Amiri, came in fourth with around 25 seats.

But after 14 years, more than $1 trillion, millions of Iraqi dead and thousands of US troops killed and maimed, the USA now has less influence over Iraq than it had while former Central Intelligence Agency operative Saddam Hussein was in power.

A similar fate could befall Sadr.

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