Baghdad: Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the biggest winner in Iraq's election. But early results showed a voter turnout of just 41%, which is the lowest since the US-led invasion that removed Saddam Hussein from power.
He is Iraq's new — and old — strongman. Popular cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his coalition have again emerged as the strongest political force in the country, according to preliminary election results. And, once again, his share of the vote appears to have increased. However, it is extremely difficult to "congratulate" the politician on his apparent election victory — without expressing deep reservations.
It is not just the fact that rival forces, who unlike al-Sadr are clearly pro-Iranian, are already accusing the populist politician of rigging the election. It's easier to level such allegations in Iraq than to investigate them independently. But whatever the truth of the matter, this is certainly souring the political mood and could spark more tensions.
What is particularly grave (and no less worrying) is voter turnout, which has dropped to its lowest levels yet. Al-Sadr — who is not standing for the office of prime minister, but traditionally sees himself as the "kingmaker" — may have triumphed at the ballot box. But only 41% of the Iraqi electorate came to the polls.
Whatever shape the future Iraqi government takes, these conditions severely weaken its democratic legitimation from the get-go.