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>> It's an election that could determine how much sway Iran has in Iraq. And, for the moment, it appears that incumbent prime minister Haider al-Abadi, a rare ally of both Iran and the Unites States, is in front. That's what an election commission source and a security official told Reuters on Sunday.
In this election, Abadi has been seeking to fend off Shiite Muslim groups seeking to pull Iraq closer to Tehran. Those rivals are his predecessor, Nouri Al-Maliki, and the leader of the main Shiite paramilitary group, Hadi Al-Amiri. They're both closer than Abadi is to Iran, but they're not the ones giving him a run for his money.
Unofficial results compiled by Reuters in southern provinces indicate that an alliance of influential Shiite Cleric Maktada Al Sada is on course for second place. Sada has kept Tehran at a distance and has generally been sidelined by influential Iranian backed figures such as Amir. Sada also led a violent uprising against US troops from 2003 to 2011 and has a zealous following among the young, poor, and dispossessed.
Turnout appears to be under 45%, much lower than in previous years. It's also the first election since the defeat of Islamic State inside the country. Abadi received US military support for Iraq's army to battle the Sunni Muslim group, even as he gave free rein to Iran to back Shiite militias also fighting on the same side.
Final results are expected to be announced on Monday. Whoever wins will have to contend with the fallout of Donald Trump's decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal, a move that some in Iraq fear could turn their country into a theater of conflict between Washington and Tehran.