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Firebrand cleric Muqtada Sadr’s alliance holds a surprise lead in Iraq elections

Nabih Bulos reports for LA Times:

An alliance led by Muqtada Sadr, the anti-U.S. firebrand cleric-turned-reformist, was leading Iraq's parliamentary elections in preliminary results announced early Monday.

A victory for Sadr would be a major upset for Prime Minister Haider Abadi, who led the country during its four-year battle against Islamic State and is supported by the U.S. and other Western nations.

Abadi was widely seen as the front-runner. But with the vote tallied in 10 of the country's 19 provinces, he was in third, well behind both Sadr and an alliance of paramilitary factions, many of which are supported by Iran and led by Shiite militia leader Hadi Ameri.

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