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

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Nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Sairoon Coalition achieved an upset victory, in what has been described as a repudiation of both USA and Iranian influence in Iraq. Victory for the veteran nationalist´s Marching Towards Reform alliance with Iraq´s communists - pitched an anti-corruption outsider force - would be a slap in the face for Iraq´s widely reviled ruling establishment.

Mr Sadr fled to Iran before the Iraqi government launched a crackdown on the Mehdi Army and remained in self-imposed exile until 2011, after playing a key role in the reappointment of then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Disparagement of electronic voting devices, used at Iraqi polling stations for the first time on Saturday, has become a common rallying cry to candidates and members of parties that got few votes in a country where there was already little faith in the national electoral system.

"So we will wait and see the results - the final results of the election".

Supporters in his impoverished Baghdad stronghold, Sadr City, were hopeful that victory could spell improvements.

None of the competing blocs appears on track to win a majority in parliament and name a prime minister.

"We have tried all the others", Jamal insisted.

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But more importantly, "Al-Sadr is an interesting character because he has very, very hard relations with the US but increasingly hard relationships with the Iranians as well", Croft said.

In a surprising pivot past year, he visited regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia to the south, with Riyadh looking to increase its involvement in Iraq as it vies with Tehran.

"And the Iranian government has said they don't want him to form a coalition and he's recently had a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia", she told CNBC.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander General Qassem Soleimani is in Baghdad to push for the formation of a new "friendly government" in Iraq, after preliminary results show anti-Iranian coalition ahead.

He announced Tuesday on state television that it was the responsibility of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to conduct the recount to determine accurate results, citing high-profile charges of vote tampering in the disputed province of Kirkuk.

Seats in parliament will be allocated proportionally to coalitions once all votes are counted.

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