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Shi'ite Cleric Sadr's Bloc Wins Iraqi Election

An Iraqi man in Baghdad celebrates with a picture of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr following his strong showing in Iraq's general election earlier this month.

The alliance of influential Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has captured the most seats in Iraq's parliamentary elections, according to final results released by the country's electoral commission on May 19.

The official results were issued a week after the May 12 national elections that put Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's bloc in third place. A coalition of candidates with ties to Iranian-backed militias finished in second place.

None of the top three groups captured more than 50 parliamentary seats in the election, whose 44.5 percent turnout was Iraq's lowest since the country's first multiparty elections were held in 2005. Talks on forming the government are expected to continue for months.

"Your vote is an honor for us," Sadr said in a May 19 statement following the announcement of the official results.

Sadr, an anti-American firebrand with a large following among Baghdad's urban poor, was once leader of the Mahdi Army, which battled U.S. forces in 2003.

The militia was disbanded in 2008 and replaced by his Peace Brigades, which along with Iraqi government troops helped push back Islamic State militant forces from areas near Baghdad in 2014.

The victory for Sadr's bloc marks a dramatic return to relevance for the cleric, who had been sidelined by Iran-backed rivals in recent years.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters