Shiite cleric Sadr leads in Iraq’s initial election results

BAGHDAD (AP) — The coalition of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has taken an early lead in Iraq’s national elections in partial returns announced by the Iraqi electoral commission.

An alliance of candidates linked to Iraq’s powerful Shiite paramilitary groups was in second, according to the results announced late Sunday. The alliance is headed by Hadi al-Amiri, a former transport minister with close ties to Iran who became a senior paramilitary commander in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi performed poorly across majority Shiite provinces that should have been his base of support.

The announcement came just over 24 hours after polls closed amid record low voter turnout. It included full returns from only 10 of the country’s 19 provinces, including the provinces of Baghdad and Basra.