Iraq election thrown wide open as outsider alliances show strength

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The strike, ordered by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, destroyed a building used as a command and logistics support center by the terror group, it said, Reuters reported.

Unlike al-Sadr, who is staunchly against foreign intervention in Iraq of any kind, al-Amiri maintains close ties to Iran, praising the country's early support for Iraq in the IS war.

And he gained allies for his own growing political base of supporters - a movement characterized by the kind of devotion Sadr's father had enjoyed a generation ago and that had allowed the young cleric to step out of his family's shadow. The dissident-turned-militia leader spent more than two decades fighting Saddam from exile in Iran.

The US-led coalition that helped battle IS pledged on Sunday to work with the elected government to ensure the "lasting defeat" of IS and said the poll proved Iraqis "emphatically rejected violent extremism".

Several parties, including those following Sadr's leadership, have committed themselves to a vision of a non-sectarian and technocratic government.

Sadr will not become prime minister as he did not run in the election but his apparent victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job.

Whoever wins will still need to reach out to other blocs, including Sunni and Kurdish coalitions, to form a governing alliance.

Though Sadr's ticket, called Sairoon, or Marching Forward, defied expectations in Saturday's election, this was the culmination of his long effort to rebrand himself as a centrist.

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The dozens of militia groups formed under the loose umbrella of the PMF in 2014, were supposedly integrated into Iraqi state forces, but retain a great deal of independence and outside influence. It says it will announce the remaining results Tuesday.

Populist Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's electoral alliance is nearly certainly headed for first place in Iraq's parliamentary election with 91 percent of votes counted in 16 out of Iraq's 18 provinces, the election commission said on Monday.

If confirmed by Iraq's electoral commission, the results could upend the nation's political balance.

Although he is primed to receive a considerable amount of votes, he does not have Tehran's backing and thought to be failed to muster an overall majority without striking a tricky coalition agreement with other blocs.

The results unexpectedly showed former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was touted as a serious challenger to Abadi, lagging behind.

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. Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that, however.

The same fate could befall Sadr.

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