Page last updated at 09:40 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 10:40 UK

Sadr supporters reject leading candidates for Iraqi PM

Moqtada Sadr - March 2010
The decision by Moqtada Sadr's bloc will delay a new Iraq government

The Iraqi political group of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has rejected both of the front-running candidates for prime minister.

The members of the Sadrist bloc voted for former Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in a referendum.

The Sadrist bloc of 40 parliamentary seats could have swung the decision for either Iyad Allawi or Nouri Maliki who lead the two biggest political blocs.

The decision means government-forming negotiations have become more complex.

It may take months, and not weeks, for the parties to form the coalitions necessary to get enough seats to form a governing majority.

The referendum offered a choice of five candidates, all of them Shias - Mr Maliki, Mr Allawi, Mr Jaafari, Vice-President Adel Abdel Mahdi, and Jaafar Mohammed Baqir Sadr, a second cousin of Moqtada Sadr and son of the revered Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir Sadr, who was assassinated during the rule of Saddam Hussein.


In the informal poll of grass-roots supporters, Mr Maliki came only fourth, with 10% of the votes.

The man who heads the coalition which narrowly won the election, Iyad Allawi, came behind Mr Maliki with 9% of the vote.

Mr Jaafari, a former doctor, headed the interim government in 2005.

He was seen at the time as a popular leader who wanted to unify Sunni and Shia interests.

He was replaced by Mr Maliki as head of the largest Shia coalition in 2006.

As prime minister, Mr Maliki crushed the military wing of the Sadr organisation, the Mehdi Army, in an offensive during 2008.

If the Sadrist movement had backed one of the two top contenders their role as kingmakers would have been clear the BBC's Jim Muir reports from Baghdad.

The bloc's choice of Mr Jaafari is not likely to be viewed with enthusiasm by other political blocs, our correspondent says.

It is a month since the general election was concluded.

None of the political groups won a big enough majority to form a government.

BBC Graph
Al-Iraqiyya (Iraqi National Movement): Nationalist bloc led by former PM Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia, includes Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, and senior Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq
State of Law: Led by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his Shia Islamist Daawa Party, the alliance purportedly cuts across religious and tribal lines, includes some Sunni tribal leaders, Shia Kurds, Christians and independents
Iraqi National Alliance: Shia-led bloc includes followers of the radical cleric, Moqtada Sadr, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and the Fadhilah Party, along with ex-PM Ibrahim Jaafari and Ahmad Chalabi
Kurdish alliance: Coalition dominated by the two parties administering Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region - the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by President Jalal Talabani

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Al Jazeera Sadrists shun Iraq front-runners - 16 hrs ago
Philadelphia Inquirer Sadrists spurn Maliki and Allawi - 26 hrs ago Iraq: Open war with Qaeda - 40 hrs ago
Telegraph Iraq frontrunners fail to gain support of influential Shiite - 42 hrs ago
Christian Science Monitor Sadr followers snub Allawi and Maliki. Who will lead Iraq? - 44 hrs ago

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