Results were posted online consecutively. They also showed that the bloc of Iraqi populist Shiite clergy Muqtada al-Sadr maintained the highest number of seats in parliament. He is the leader in many of Iraq's 18 provincials, including Baghdad. Al-Sadr is a charismatic leader who led an insurgency against U.S forces following the 2003 invasion. His movement appears to have more seats in the 329-member parliament than he had in 2018, which was 54.
None of the rival political blocs was able to secure a majority in parliament, and thus a prime minister's position. 94% of ballot boxes were counted. Al-Sadr's group will still be able, based on the results, to play a major role in the political horse-trading for a compromise candidate and to set the political agenda over the next four years.
According to preliminary results, Al-Sadr's candidate beat out Iran's favorite candidates from the Fatah Alliance and came out first. The Fatah Alliance is led by Hadi al-Ameri (paramilitary leader), and includes parties that are affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces. This umbrella group of pro-Iran Shiite militias is called the Popular Mobilization Forces. The war against Sunni extremist Islamic State led to the rise of the alliance. It includes the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a militia that is Iran-backed.
Monday's loss of seats by the Fatah Alliance, which received 48 in 2018, was not immediately known.
The 41% voter turnout in the post-Saddam Hussein period was a record low, signaling widespread distrust in the country's leaders. This is a decrease of 44% from the 2018 elections which was an all time low.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres still congratulated Iraqis for their election results. He also appealed to calm and peace for the political discussions about the formation of a new government.
As a concession to the youth-led uprising against corruption, and mismanagement, the weekend's election took place months earlier than expected. However, the vote was marred in widespread apathy by many of those same young activists who marched through Baghdad's southern provinces in late 2019 calling for radical reforms and new elections.
Tens of thousands protested against the government in late 2019/early 2020. Security forces responded with live ammunition and tear gas. In just a few short months, more than 600 people were killed and many others were injured.
Although the authorities called early elections and accepted their defeat, many protestors later called for a boycott of the vote.
Many young activists took part in the protests in 2019. They also protested Iran's strong-handed influence on Iraqi politics. This included armed militias that challenge the authority of the state. Many blamed militias for participating in the brutal suppression of the protests. This could have been a factor in Fatah’s poor showing.
Al-Sadr is a black-turbaned nationalist leader who is also close to Iran but publicly rejects its political influence.
This election was the sixth since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Many doubted that the independent candidates of the protest movement would be able to defeat established parties and politicians, many backed by powerful militias.
Although the exact number of seats in parliament was not known at this time, preliminary results indicated that several independent candidates were elected to parliament.
Young Iraqis, the largest group in the country, were reluctant to vote. Many people believed that the system was inimical to reform and that elections would only bring back those who were responsible for corruption and mismanagement that have plagued Iraqi politics for many decades. The country is now in crisis, with a declining infrastructure and increasing unemployment.
The laws of Iraq allow the party with the most seats to elect the next prime minister. However, it is unlikely that any of the other coalitions will be able to secure a clear majority. This will take a long process that involves backroom negotiations in order to choose a consensus prime minster and agree on a new coalition.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi played an important role in the region's crisis, especially between regional rivals Iran (and Saudi Arabia) Many people in the region and elsewhere will be keeping an eye on him to see if he is elected to a second term.
The next president of Iraq will be elected by the new parliament.