While incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was considered the most likely victor, the alliance of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has very hard relationships with the United States, is the likely victor in a surprise twist, according to preliminary results based on more than 91 percent of the votes cast in 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces.
The front-runner in Iraqi elections, the populist Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, wasted little time trying to prove to potential allies that he is serious about shaking up the government and cleaning up corruption as he worked to cobble together a governing coalition. The IHEC found that Hadi al-Amiri's coalition is in second place, and current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's group is listed in third place. The younger al-Sadr campaigned on a cross-sectarian platform of fighting corruption and investing in services and struck a surprising alliance with the Communist Party in the capital.
The votes in the Kurdish provinces of Dohuk and Kirkuk are still to be counted, but their results will not affect al-Sadr's victory. It says it will announce the remaining results Tuesday.
Al-Sadr led the Mahdi army in the early years of the war on terror, using IEDs and machine guns to kill Western forces, O'Neill said.
The poll noticed a report low turnout, as exclusively 44.5 % of eligible voters headed to the polls within the lowest participation fee because the 2003 US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein.
The elections on Saturday - hit by record abstentions - saw a clear rejection of the Iraqi elite that has run the country since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Responding to Mr Abadi's comments, Mr Al Sadr described his victory as "an achievement for the Iraqi people and its national entitlement".
"I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections", he said.
The main question for Iraqis, regional powers and Western allies now is who will become the next prime mister and form the government.
The remaining uncounted ballots, mostly from Iraqis overseas, the security services, and internally displaced people voting in camps and elsewhere, might change the final seat tallies but only marginally.
Reuters calculations based on the document showed Sadr had won the nationwide popular vote with over 1.3 million votes and gained around 54 of parliament's 329 seats.