Shiite cleric al-Sadr leads in Iraq's initial vote results

Voting for Parliamentary Elections Begins in Iraq

In a message on messaging app Telegram, Al-Muhajir had warned of attacks on the "Shia government in Iraq", and polling stations with voters and election officials.

An alliance backed by Shia parliamentary groups and led by former minister Hadi al-Amiri was in second place.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (C) speaks as he presents candidates running on his list during an electoral campaign rally in the holy Iraqi city of Karbala on May 4, 2018.

Iraqis voted on Saturday in the first national elections since the country declared complete victory over the terrorist Daesh group.

"It is important that allegations of irregularities be investigated by Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission to establish the legitimacy of the election results", it said.

The ballot on Saturday was hit by record abstentions, with only 44.5 per cent of eligible voters heading to the polls in the lowest turnout since the 2003 US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein. The exact number of seats any blocs are getting, even in provinces where the counting is completed, has not fully been announced, and is unlikely to until later Monday.

Al-Abadi sought to retain his publish as prime minister after overseeing the army defeat of the IS motion, however confronted stiff competitors from his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, in addition to al-Sadr and the Fatah alliance of candidates with paramilitary ties.

The most important issues dominated throughout the campaign included corruption, security, poverty, the influence of Iran and the future of U.S. forces now in the country.

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The final results were due to be announced later on Monday.

After polls closed, Abadi said in a statement that the Iraqis had been able to vote "freely and safely".

Unofficial results compiled by Reuters reporters in southern provinces also indicated that Sadr, a firebrand cleric who led a violent uprising against U.S. troops from 2003-2011, appeared to be making a strong showing. Al-Sadr commanded fighters in the war against the IS group and headed a powerful militia that fought USA forces in Iraq prior to 2011, but his 2018 campaign focused on social issues and eliminating government corruption.

His list is expected to come in third place, according to the election commission source and security official. Until the new prime minister is chosen, Haider al-Abadi, the current PM will continue to officiate.

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

Observers believe that no single group is expected to win 165 seats required for forming next government.

A total of 7,367 candidates from 320 political parties are contesting in 329 seats, Efe news reported.

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