FILE - Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Najaf, Iraq, May 12, 2018. The results have come as a shock to the Americans, who were convinced that the incumbent prime minister would gain enough seats to create a coalition with the moderate parties and thereby form a new government.
Counting was still ongoing three days after the first parliamentary poll since the defeat of the Islamic State group, but the fiery Shiite preacher´s grouping was in the lead with 16 of 18 provinces tallied.
During the Iraq War, Sadr was a fierce opponent of US forces in the country, and his followers also clashed with Sunnis in sectarian fighting. Despite a third place finish, Abadi could potentially still remain prime minister after the government coalition is formed. Corruption has been at the top of Sadr's agenda for several years.
Whereas lengthy railing towards the United States, the populist firebrand has additionally distanced himself from its key rival Iran, drawing nearer to regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia.
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.
Some prominent politicians now believe that al-Abadi is still the favorite to form the next government despite losing.
MacCallum added that Trump's top military officials, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford Jr. both seek to continue to work with the Iraqi government in a constructive way.
Turnout was 44.52 percent with 92 percent of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission said, the lowest participation rate in Iraq's post-Saddam history.
After the announcement that the Marching In the direction of Reform was forward in Baghdad, supporters took to the streets within the capital to rejoice early Monday. It included full returns from only 10 of the country's 19 provinces, including the provinces of Baghdad and Basra.
"I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections", he said.
O'Neill warned that such a situation could be tenuous if America's former "enemy number one" is able to choose the next prime minister. Of more than 2 million Iraqis displaced by the war, the majority are Sunnis.