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Election-winning cleric promises ‘inclusive’ government for Iraq

SHI’ITE cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Sairoon (On the Move) coalition won most seats in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, reassured Iraqis today that their next government will be “inclusive” and mindful of their needs.

Speaking in the wake of Saturday night talks with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose Nasr (Victory) bloc did poorly in the election, Mr Sadr said that their meeting “sends a clear and comforting message to the Iraqi people.

“Your government will take care of you and will be inclusive. We will not exclude anyone. We will work towards reform and prosperity.”

Sairoon won 54 of the chamber’s 329 seats, while Nasr gained 42, taking third place behind the Fatah (Conquest) coalition, led by Hadi al-Amiri and dominated by Iranian-backed People’s Mobilisation paramilitary forces, which came second with 47.

“Our door is open to anyone as long as they want to build the nation and that this be an Iraqi decision,” Mr Sadr said.

“During our meeting, we agreed to work together and with other parties to expedite the process of forming a new Iraqi government,” Mr Abadi told a joint press conference.

“It will be a strong government, capable of providing services, security and economic prosperity to its citizens.”

Sairoon, which is a coalition of Sadr followers, the Communist Party and other secular groups, has prioritised fighting against rampant corruption, poverty and outside interference in Iraqi affairs.

Tehran had stated publicly before the election that it would not allow what it called “liberals and communists” to govern Iraq. Iran has influenced the choice of prime minister in the past.

Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that Mr Sadr, who did not stand as a candidate, will be able to hand-pick a prime minister.

Electoral blocs will have to negotiate a parliamentary majority behind a candidate and the government should be formed within 90 days of the official results, but negotiations are expected to drag on for months.

The election dealt a blow to Mr Abadi, but he could still emerge as a compromise candidate, having balanced Washington and Tehran during his term in office.

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