By Middle East Affairs
Muqtada Al-Sadr, the turbulent Shiite cleric who once sent his followers into battle against the United States military, is expected to rise to the top in Iraq’s parliamentary election.
If he makes it to the top of the elections, he will have the power of say in forming the largest parliamentary bloc. The parliamentary bloc nominates its choice of a prime minister who then goes on to form a government.
Al-Sadr is a member of the Sairoon alliance, whose partnership includes Iraq’s Communist Party, known for their anti-American, anti-Iranian views. Al-Sadr is running as a nationalist that is keen to bridge together the divisions of the past.
Haider Al-Fraidawi, a 40-year old Iraqi voter, told Arab News, “I completely trust him.” Fraidawl also believes that Al-Sadr is able to decide what is best for the country.
The cleric is infamous for his hatred of the U.S. occupation. His look has gained notoriety as his image of a black turban, short grey beard and heavyset built are plastered in posters around Bagdad.
The total count of votes is due later on Thursday, but Al-Sadr is projected to win. Al-Sadr’s win will be aided by his loyal followers and Saturday’s low voter turnout of his rivals. The election brought out only 44.52 of voters, a 15 % lower voter turnout than in 2014.
His dedicated fanatical followers place value on him being a member of one of Iraq’s most notable Shiite families. His strong sense of independence has enticed more to vote for him, than his policies.
“We are Sadr’s followers. We do what he says without arguing or thinking,” Ahmad Al-Anbaki, a 28-year-old Al-Sadr follower, told Arab News.
Al-Anbaki allegiance to Al-Sadr, is limitless, “If he says die, we will die for him. If he says fight, we will fight under his banner. And if he says be peaceful, we will be peaceful,” said Al-Anbak, “Al-Sadr’s orders are non-negotiable.”
Thursday morning, votes have been counted in 16 out of Iraq’s 18 providences, totally 92 % of the votes. With these results “Al-Sadr’ is said to win dozens of seats in the country’s 329-seat Parliament.
Iraqi political analyst, Abdulwahid Tuama in an interview with Arab News, said, “Sadr’s strength lies in the blind obedience of his followers. They are ready to follow him anywhere and do whatever he asks them to do without discussions.”
Following in his father’s footsteps, the then 29-year-old Al-Sadr stepped into Iraq’s political sphere as a defender of the poor and an opponent of U.S. military intervention in 2003.
The legacy of Al-Sadr father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Mohammed Sadeq Al-Sadr, a fierce foe of former President Saddam Hussein, has helped Al-Sadr draw in supporters to his side. The Grand Ayatollah was assassinated with his two sons in 1999.
He commanded his army, the Mehdi into savage battles to the slums of Baghdad and the holy city of Najaf against U.S. troops. It was then that rumors spread of his brutal ways, kidnappings, torture, and killings inspired fear into Iraqi Sunnis.
In the years that followed Al-Sadr tried to distance himself from Iran, which diminished his political standing, as fellow Shiite politicians with stronger ties to Tehran gained favor with the public. His candidacy in past elections has been unsuccessful.
The Iranian-backed Al-Fattah alliance is projected to come in second place, they are supported by the armed Shiite wing. The current Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, Al-Nassir coalition is estimated to win third place.