BAGHDAD — The two front-runners vying to become Iraq’s next prime minister failed to get the support of an influential Shiite movement in results from a poll released Wednesday, further muddying the political situation following inconclusive March elections.

Instead, the bulk of supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has emerged as a kingmaker, said he should back Shiite politician Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who was interim prime minister from 2005 to 2006. Nearly as many cast ballots for one of al-Sadr’s relatives.

The Sadrists held the informal weekend poll after former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s secular bloc won just two seats more than incumbent Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition in March 7 parliamentary elections. With both sides far short of the majority needed to govern alone, the candidates are now scrambling to muster the support needed to form a government.

Al-Sadr became key to those efforts after his followers won at least 39 seats in the 325-seat parliament, up 10 seats from their current standing. That makes them the largest bloc within the Iraqi National Alliance, a Shiite religious coalition that placed third in the race.

Al-Sadr’s spokesman Salah al-Obeidi announced left open whether al-Sadr would follow the guidance of his supporters in the course of negotiations, which are expected to take months.

The poll was widely viewed as a way for the cleric to give himself the opportunity to back someone other than al-Maliki, under the guise of following the people’s will.

Al-Maliki and Allawi received only 10 percent and 9 percent of poll votes respectively.

Al-Sadr’s relative Mohammed Jaffar al-Sadr got 23 percent, senior Sadrist politician Qusay al-Suhail got 17 percent, and a handful of others split the remainder of the ballots.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.