Iraq's Sadrists celebrate early signs of election victory
Supporters of Iraq's Sadrist Movement celebrated on Sunday night as unofficial early predictions indicated that the movement, led by Iraqi cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, had made strong gains in the country's parliamentary elections.
Fireworks were set off by Sadrist supporters in Baghdad and the southern city of Nasiriyah.
The Iraqi Kurdish news website Rudaw reported that the Sadrist Movement was expected to win 80 of the 329 seats in the Iraqi parliament, emerging as the largest party.
Ibrahim Al-Jabiri, the head of Sadr's office, told Rudaw: "Reports show that we have 80 seats and this is expected to rise… praise be to God for this great victory under the stewardship of Iraqi leader Muqtada Sadr."
Issam Hussein, a senior member of the Sadrist Movement, told Rudaw that the party were in a position to determine the makeup of the next Iraqi government.
"Future alliances regarding the formation of a government will be with those closest to the Sadrist movement, including the Kurdistan Democratic Party, national forces, and the Taqadum Alliance," he said.
Hussein criticised the Fatah Alliance, which is close to the Popular Mobilisation Forces (Hashd Al-Shaabi) militia and supported by Iran, for making what he characterised as inflated claims regarding the number of seats they would win.
The Fatah Alliance announced that it expected to win over 40 seats while Hussein said that they would only win between 17 and 20 seats.
The New Arab’s correspondent in Iraq reported on Monday that the pro-Iran alliance had lost all the parliamentary seats it previously held in two Iraqi provinces.
The leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' (IRGC) Quds Force, Esmail Qaani, arrived in Iraq on an unannounced visit on Monday, the correspondent also said.
The Quds Force is tasked with the IRCG's extraterritorial operations. Its previous leader, Qasem Soleimani, was assassinated in a US airstrike near Baghdad Airport in January 2020.
Demands to announce results 'quickly'
On Monday, Muqtada Al-Sadr called on the Iraqi High Election Commission to speedily announce the results of the election.
"We stress the need for quickly announcing the results and reviewing legal challenges [to the results] so that all opportunities for those wanting to interfere with the political process and falsify and stall [the elections] illegally are removed," Al-Sadr wrote on Twitter.
The Sadrist Movement draws its support from poorer and working-class Iraqi Shias. Al-Sadr has previously been characterised as a "firebrand" for his opposition to the presence of US troops in Iraq and is known for his mercurial pronouncements.
His movement previously announced a boycott of the elections before changing its mind.
The parliamentary elections were due to take place in 2022 but were brought forward due to widespread protests against government corruption and popular dissatisfaction with Iraq’s political class.
They have been characterised by low turnout, with young people in particular, who were prominent in Iraq's anti-corruption protests, staying away from the polls.
Iraq’s election commission has reported that 41 percent of eligible voters turned out to take part, down from 44 percent in 2018.