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Iraq elections: who is Moqtadr al-Sadr?

Iraq elections: who is Moqtadr al-Sadr?

It was the first since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group and the fourth since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Final results are expected on Monday.

An alliance of candidates with close ties to Iraq's powerful Shiite paramilitary groups are in a close second while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has performed poorly across majority Shiite provinces that should have been his base of support.

The coalition headed by fiery anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr appears headed to victory in Iraq's parliamentary election.

Forty-four year old Sadr will not become prime minister as he did not run in the election but his nearly certain victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job. Sadr refused to adhere to the calls from Tehran and Qom to send troops to support the Assad regime in Syria, and tensions have remained high.

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Abadi - who came to power as IS swept across Iraq in 2014 - is a consensus figure who has balanced off the United States and Iran. "Iraq first, eradicate corruption, and a technocratic government". 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.

Sadr derives much of his authority from his family.

Supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr carry his image as they celebrate in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, on May 14.

The decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to end the Iran Nuclear deal just days before the Iraqi elections would only stoke the fire. Other political leaders in Baghdad voted at the luxury Rasheed Hotel behind the concrete walls of the green zone, the seat of government power. But the defeat of Islamic State and Abadi's campaign to eradicate Iraq's rampant corruption improved his standing.

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The Victory Alliance of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has been backed by the worldwide community, looked to have won in only one province.

Whoever emerges as premier will face the mammoth task of rebuilding a country left shattered by the battle against Islamic State - with donors already pledging $30 billion.

Sadr is one of the few Shia leaders to keep a distance from Iran, and instead shares Saudi interest in countering Iranian influence in Iraq. Amiri is closely allied with Iran, and there are fears that he would introduce sectarian policies, similar to those introduced under Maliki's premiership, which proved to be destructive to Iraqi society.

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