Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is facing a shock defeat in the country's first election since declaring victory over Islamic State in December.
Nationalist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is now on course to win the largest number of seats after the Iraqi election.
After being sidelined by Iranian-backed rivals for years, the apparent parliamentary victory marks a political comeback for Sadr, who didn't even officially run for prime minister in this year's elections.
Al-Sadr commands the devotion of millions of Iraqis who have sent their sons and husbands to fight for his militia from the early days of the US occupation.
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Recounts following disputes in the Dohuk and Kirkuk provinces have delayed any final announcement, but officials said a full tally should be out over the next two days.
Al-Sadr led the Mahdi army in the early years of the war on terror, using IEDs and machine guns to kill Western forces, O'Neill said.
The Sadr-led army has also been blamed for "the killing of thousands of Sunni Muslims in the sectarian violence that plagued Iraq in 2006 and 2007", says the BBC. Asked about the U.S. government's possible softened position toward Sadr and his alleged proximity to Riyadh, Hassan Danaiefar told Entekhab news site on May 15, "Some of this talk is speculation".
He can not become prime minister as he did not run in the election, though his apparent victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job.
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Seats in parliament will be allocated proportionally to coalitions once all votes are counted.
Any attempt to form a government that would threaten the influence Iran has built up in the 15 years since the fall of Saddam Hussein looks certain to face opposition from Tehran.
Also on Tuesday, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) called on IHEC to recount votes manually due to concerns from some Kurdish political parties over the preliminary elections results in the Kurdistan Region.
The elections commission has announced results from 16 of Iraq's 19 provinces. Former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a close ally of Iran like Amiri, came in fourth with around 25 seats. More than 2 million people are displaced by war, majority Sunnis. The other winning blocs would have to agree on the nomination. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow his bloc to govern.
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