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16 May 2018, 03:23 | Glen Norman
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Sadr, an opponent to both USA and Iranian influence in Iraq, was followed by Iran-backed Shia militia leader Hadi Al Amiri's coalition.
But can he really sideline powerful foreign players and domestic rivals to take control?
Near complete results showed Sadr scooping the most seats in parliament after his Marching Towards Reform alliance with Iraq's communists tapped popular anger over corruption and foreign meddling.
But even then, his bloc might not necessarily form the next government.
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Iranian officials have already stated they will block Sadr's coalition.
However, with months of wrangling expected ahead, it remains far from certain that he will get the chance to realise his ambitions.
In a 2010 election, Vice President Ayad Allawi's group won the largest number of seats, albeit with a narrow margin, but he was blocked from becoming premier for which he blamed Tehran.
But after much manoeuvring, Allawi was eventually bested by Nuri al-Maliki, as Tehran helped engineer a union between two leading Shiite blocs to give him more seats.
Sadr has reinvented himself as an anti-graft crusader after rising to prominence as a powerful militia chief whose fighters battled USA forces after the 2003 invasion. He is now calling for the latest deployment of American troops to leave following last year's defeat of the Islamic State group.
A participant said Qassem Suleimani, the foreign operations chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, was in Baghdad to try to broker a coalition among Sadr's Shia rivals.
In a surprising move previous year, he visited regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, as Tehran's rival Riyadh looks to increase its involvement in Iraq.
His spokesman, Saleh al-Obeidi, said in an interview in Baghdad on Tuesday that Mr. Sadr's movement is seeking allies who agree to its three-plank manifesto - ending the practice of awarding ministries on sectarian quotas, fighting corruption and allowing independent technocrats to manage key government agencies.
Iraqi firebrand political figure Muqtada al-Sadr is set to be announced the surprise victor of the country's elections and prepared for his new status as government titan by making a call for national unity.
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