Iraq’s PM has called for all parties to respect the election results, and may remain in power through negotiations of a coalition government. Al-Sadr cannot himself become PM since he did not run in the election.

Muqtada Al-Sadr in 2017

Muqtada Al-Sadr in 2017 Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the past few hours, the Iraqi Electoral Commission released results from Iraq’s first parliamentary election since the government declared the defeat of ISIS. In an unexpected shift from previous voting patterns, Iraqis backed Muqtada Al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric from the south of Iraq who ran a populist campaign and is seen as a rival of both Iran and the United States. Al-Sadr’s coalition is expected to win over 50 seats in Iraq’s 329-seat Parliament, followed closely by Iranian-backed National Iraqi Alliance leader Hadi Al-Amiri, whose bloc carried roughly 47 seats in this election.

While Al-Sadr isn’t running, this election gives him considerable influence in Iraqi politics that he had not held before. In Iraq, Al-Sadr is known for being one of the few Shiite clerics to oppose Iran’s influence in the country. In the past, Al-Sadr had campaigned alongside Amiri under a unified banner representing Iraq’s Shiite community, but that alliance fell apart due to Al-Sadr’s disagreements over Iran’s interference. In Iraq, Al-Sadr is also credited for leading two uprisings against American forces, allowing him to run a heavily nationalist campaign that appealed to broad sectors of the population.

Iran has already expressed opposition to Al-Sadr’s election, and the current Prime Minister, Haidar Al-Abadi, has called for all parties to respect the electoral results and work towards forming the new government. Al-Abadi’s government was expected to win the election, and he remains in a position to negotiate a coalition government that keeps him in power. Iran’s opposition stems from Al-Sadr’s broad ideological coalition that resulted in his victory, even working with the Iraqi Communist Party. The new Iraqi government will be crucial in deciding Iraq’s role in the post-Iran nuclear deal period, and the degree of Iranian and American influence in the country.