PM Abadi leading Iraq election, Sadr strong

Iraqis wait in a long line to cast their vote in the country's election at a polling site in a battle-damaged building in west Mosul. This is the first parliamentary election since the Islamic State group was driven from the city

Iraqis wait in a long line to cast their vote in the country's election at a polling site in a battle-damaged building in west Mosul. This is the first parliamentary election since the Islamic State group was driven from the city

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 new president will within 15 days formally task the largest parliamentary bloc's nominee with forming a government.

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.

An official told AFP under condition of anonymity that initial tallies had Abadi's list just ahead of that of Ameri, with an anti-establishment alliance of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and communists in third. He is popular among the poor but has been sidelined by influential Iranian-backed figures.

The other leading challengers have often taken a stronger stance against the United States.

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The governor of Iraq's Kirkuk province declared a curfew on Saturday and ordered a manual recount of votes there in the national election, saying an electronic counting system had produced an "illogical" result.

Celebrations erupted on the streets of Baghdad after the commission's announcement, with thousands of Sadr's supporters singing, chanting, dancing and setting off fireworks in the capital while carrying his picture and waving Iraqi flags.

Crowds of mainly young people waved flags and pictures of the populist nationalist cleric Sadr while fireworks fired off into the night sky.

Sadr is also well known to Washington.

Iraqis were faced with a fragmented political landscape, some five months after the IS was ousted from the country.

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Across the war-scarred nation people railed against the same old faces who they accuse of corruption and sectarianism.

The vote came with tensions surging between the United States and Iran after Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, sparking fears of a destabilising power struggle over Iraq.

Al-Sadr commanded fighters within the conflict in opposition to the IS group and headed a robust militia that fought USA forces in Iraq previous to 2011, however his 2018 marketing campaign targeted on social points and eliminating authorities corruption.

The official turnout was expected to be low as numerous roughly 24.5 million voters skipped the parliamentary ballot, despite it passing off largely peacefully.

Over two million people remain internally displaced across the country and IS - while weakened - still has the capability to launch deadly attacks.

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But the defeat of Islamic State and Abadi's campaign to eradicate Iraq's rampant corruption improved his standing.

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