Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's governing alliance was in third place Sunday night, according to partial returns from Saturday's national elections broadcast on state TV. Leading the vote was the coalition led by influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, followed by an alliance tied to Shiite militias led by Hadi al-Amiri, a former paramilitary leader with close ties to Iran who gained prominence fighting the Islamic State. The early results covered full returns from 10 of Iraq's 19 provinces, but al-Sadr's supporters celebrated in the streets of Sadr City, a poor section of Baghdad named after al-Sadr's father.
Voter turnout was a low 44.5 percent, and analysts suggested al-Sadr benefited from his loyal supporters showing up to vote while other Iraqis stayed home in disillusionment amid widespread corruption and slow rebuilding from four years of ISIS insurgency. Al-Sadr became an influential figure after the fall of Saddam Hussein, first leading a local fight against U.S. forces and then commanding fighters in the war against ISIS. He opposes U.S. and Iranian influence in Iraqi politics and campaigned mostly on social issues and against corruption. Al-Abadi, who had hoped to ride his country's defeat of ISIS to another term, will remain prime minister until a new governing coalition is cobbled together from the dozens of alliances that will win seats in parliament, a process that could take months. Peter Weber