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Iraqi cleric al-Sadr leads in early election results

Voting began early Saturday in a contest that had no clear front-runner after weeks of official campaigning.

Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s alliance is the early front-runner in Iraq’s national elections, with official results in from just over half of the country’s provinces.

The announcement by Iraq’s electoral commission comes a day after polls closed across Iraq. The results are from 10 of the country’s 19 provinces, including Baghdad and Basra.

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Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, centre, leaves a polling station after casting his ballot (AP)

An alliance of candidates with close ties to Iraq’s powerful Shiite paramilitary groups are in a close second while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has performed poorly across majority Shiite provinces that should have been his base of support.

The election was marked by record low turnout. It was the first since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group and the fourth since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

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