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Iraq's al-Sadr joins forces with Iran-backed coalition

AP  |  Baghdad 

Iraqi Shiite Muqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition won the largest number of seats in last month's parliamentary elections, has announced an alliance with an Iran-backed coalition ahead of marathon negotiations to form a new government.

The move, announced by al-Sadr and of the coalition in the revered southern Shiite city of Najaf, came as a surprise as al-Sadr has been touting himself as a who opposes Iranian influence in

The new alliance controls 101 seats, still far from the 165 required for a majority.

At a conference yesterday, the two leaders said their alliance is aimed at expediting the formation of a new government and called on others to join them.

"We had a very positive meeting in order to end the suffering of the country and the people," al-Sadr said. "Our new alliance is a nationalist one and within the national frames."

In the years following the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, al-Sadr led militiamen who fought American troops.

At that time they were backed by Iran, but in recent years the has presented himself as a opposed to Iranian influence. His main focus has been waging a public campaign against corruption.

His Sa'eroun alliance, which also includes the and secular candidates, won 54 seats, followed by Fatah, a coalition of Shiite paramilitaries who fought the Islamic State group, with 47 seats. Haider al-Abadi's Victory alliance took 42 seats.

Iraq's May 12 elections, the fourth since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, was marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities. It saw the lowest turnout in 15 years due to widespread anger at the country's dysfunctional political class.

Last week, al-Abadi announced that a commission set up by the government to look into alleged irregularities in the vote found "unprecedented" violations and "widespread manipulation" and faulted election authorities. It recommended a recount for 5 percent of the vote.

Hours later, lawmakers voted on annulling results of ballots from abroad and camps for displaced people in four Sunni-dominated provinces, and called for a manual recount of all ballots.

A few days later, a fire ripped through a for ballot boxes, sparking calls to redo the election as the country's top judicial authority took over the to prepare for the manual recount.

During his weekly press conference yesterday, al-Abadi objected to holding new elections, a position echoed by al-Sadr and al-Amiri.

Initial investigations, said al-Abadi, showed that Sunday's fire was deliberately lit by "criminals who seek to sabotage the political process from one side and to steal the voters' votes from another."


Citing the investigation, he added that those behind the fire had easy access to the facility, as no doors had been broken and security cameras were disabled.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, June 13 2018. 20:45 IST
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