INTERNATIONAL

Iraq Elections: Anti-US Cleric Emerges As Biggest Winner

Moqtada Al-Sadr's Party emerged as the biggest winner in Iraqi Elections, increasing the number of seats he holds in Parliament.

Groups aligned with Sadr have dominated governments and government formation since the US-Led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Sunday's election was held several months early, in response to mass protests in 2019 that toppled a government and showed widespread anger against political leaders whom many Iraqis say have enriched themselves at the expense of the country.

A count based on initial results from several provinces plus the capital Baghdad, verified by local government officials, suggested Sadr has won 73 seats, which could give him considerable influence in forming a government.

However, Sadr's group is just one of several that will have to enter negotiations to form a coalition.

Sadr broadcast a live speech on state TV claiming victory and promising a Nationalist Government free of foreign interference.

He opposes all foreign interference in Iraq, whether by the United States, against which he fought an insurgency after 2003, or by neighbouring Iran.

The initial results also showed that pro-reform candidates who emerged from the 2019 protests had gained several seats in the 329-member parliament.

Kurdish parties also won 61 seats.

Elections in Iraq since 2003 have been followed by protracted negotiations that can last months and serve to distribute government posts among the dominant parties.