Alliance of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is set to win Iraq's parliamentary elections - an unexpected outcome that has caught the attention of Iranian media.
The reports come a day after Iraqi leaders - including outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi - met with the envoy for the US-led anti-Islamic State group coalition Brett McGurk "to discuss the formation of a strong and stable Iraqi government", according to a statement from Iraq's parliament speaker.
Despite winning the popular vote and controlling the most seats, Sadr will not become prime minister because he did not run in the election, but his victory puts him in position to choose someone for the job.
Sadr's gains have called into question the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, where more than 5,000 troops are indefinitely deployed to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group. During the Iraq War, Sadr was a fierce opponent of USA forces in the country, and his followers also clashed with Sunnis in sectarian fighting. "And we stand with the Iraqi people's decisions". Corruption has been at the top of Sadr's agenda for several years. Today, he's rebranded himself as a populist outsider who will fight corruption and Iran's interference in Iraqi affairs.
Seats in parliament will be allocated proportionately 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. The group overran a third of Iraq in 2014.
The final results are due to be announced later on Monday, triggering what are expected to be lengthy negotiations to form a new coalition government.
A document provided to Reuters by a candidate in Baghdad that was also circulating among journalists and analysts showed results from all 18 provinces.
The elections commission has announced results from 16 of Iraq's 19 provinces.
Iraq is still waiting to hear the results from foreign and security forces balloting, which could add close to 1 million votes to the national tally. Former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a close ally of Iran like Amiri, came in fourth with around 25 seats. They suggest Iraqis increasingly want to move towards civic-based politics that encompass people regardless of their background and sect.