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

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Al-Amiri maintains close ties to Iran.

However, Muqtada al-Sadr is projecting a strong nationalist personality at the moment and is not favored by Iran or the Americans.

In an additional political upset, the rival Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former fighters gave the impression to be coming in second, squeezing internationally favoured prime minister Haider al-Abadi into third.

But more importantly, "Al-Sadr is an interesting character because he has very, very hard relations with the USA but increasingly hard relationships with the Iranians as well", Croft said. Abadi, however, is using those claims, and the use of "faulty" electronic voting machines to argue a recount is needed.

A document provided to Reuters by a candidate in Baghdad that was also circulating among journalists and analysts showed results from all 18 provinces. Sadr - who has ruled himself out of becoming prime minister - looks likely to be the key powerbroker and has already mooted a technocrat government of some dozen parties that bridge sectarian divides.

Voter turnout was 44.52 per cent with 92 per cent of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said on Sunday. Though this started with claims of mistakes in Kirkuk, Abadi wants it expanded nationwide.

An official on the US State Division remained coy forward of the definitive tally, telling AFP "we're awaiting the announcement of the official outcomes and stay up for the formation of the brand new authorities".

Members of the election commission read out vote tallies for each candidate list in 10 provinces on national TV. The Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia chief Hadi al-Amiri came in second with about 1.2 million votes and will control 47 seats.

Celebrations erupted in Baghdad's Sadr City, an impoverished quarter that is home to some 3 million people and is named after the cleric's late father, Ayatollah Mohammad Sadq al-Sadr.

Counting is still ongoing but Sadr's coalition - which is dominated by the Sadrist Movement and the Iraqi Communist Party - is believed to have won at least 54 of the 329-seat parliament, making it the largest political forces in the country, according to Al Jazeera. Dozens of alliances ran for office, and months of negotiations are expected before any one alliance can pull together the 165 required seats.

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