The anti-American, militant-turned-Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has officially won Iraq’s parliamentary election, the election commission announced Friday, CNN reported.
“Al-Sadr, who in 2008 was named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influence people, campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, allied himself with the Communist Party and rode a wave of populist sentiment to victory,” CNN reported.
“An opponent of Iranian influence in his country, al-Sadr is also a longtime foe of the United States and its role in Iraq.”
Al-Sadr’s political coalition, the Saeroon Alliance, secured more seats in parliament than any other coalition, claiming 54 of the 328.
According to CNN, the United States preferred candidate, Haider al-Abadi, won 42 seats, while the Fatah Alliance took 48.
“Your vote is an honor for us,” al-Sadr said in a statement released on Twitter.
“We will not disappoint you,” he continued, adding “the blame, all the blame is on those who failed Iraq.”
Al-Sadr is well known for his anti-American sentiment and U.S. military officials hold him responsible for the deaths of many American troops.
Al-Sadr led the powerful Shia militia group, the Mehdi Army, from 2005 to 2008 in Iraq. They were blamed for some of the worst violence in the country during that time, killing both U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. The group later disbanded and transitioned “into a movement to oppose secularism and Western thought,” according to CNN.
“Following the 2003 U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Al-Sadr burst onto the scene as a renegade champion of poorer Shiites, leading militant fighters who carried out deadly attacks on American forces and were notorious for sectarian killings of Sunni Muslims,” The Associated Press reported.
“The vote was a slap in the face to the widely reviled elite that has dominated Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein,” The Times of Israel explained.
Because al-Sadr’s alliance falls short of a majority, he will need to reach out to other groups, including Sunni and Kurdish coalitions, to form a governing alliance.
“Sadr, who has ruled himself out of becoming prime minister, is looking to be the kingmaker and to cobble together a technocrat government from a dozen parties,” Israel’s online newspaper stated.
According to the AP, al-Sadr ran on a strategy of social justice, and non-sectarianism, allying with secularists and Iraq’s communist party.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis remained cautious in his response to Al-Sadr’s apparent victory.
“The Iraqi people had an election, it’s a democratic process at a time when many people doubted that Iraq could take charge of themselves,” he said. “So we will wait and see the results — the final results of the election. And we stand with the Iraqi people’s decisions.”
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