Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political coalition has won the most seats in Iraq's national parliamentary elections, according to complete results released by Iraq's electoral commission early Saturday, the AP reports. The announcement came nearly a week after Iraqis cast their votes on May 12 and put Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in third place, according to seat allocations. An alliance of candidates with close ties to mostly Iranian-backed paramilitary forces came in second. "Your vote is an honor for us," al-Sadr said in a statement released on Twitter just moments after the official announcement. "We will not disappoint you," he continued, adding "the blame, all the blame is on those who failed Iraq."
No one alliance won an outright majority and negotiations over forming the government are expected to drag on for months as parties try to form a bloc large enough to gain a majority in parliament. Following the 2003 US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Al-Sadr burst onto the scene as a renegade champion of poorer Shiites, leading militant fighters who carried out deadly attacks on American forces and were notorious for sectarian killings of Sunni Muslims. In recent years, al-Sadr has gained popularity as a nationalist voice, opposing Iranian influence and waging a public campaign against corruption. For this election, he ran a non-sectarian campaign focused on issues of social justice, allying with secularists and Iraq's communist party, and broadening support beyond his traditional base.
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