Analysts said INA has become the third largest party in parliament and
would determine the next government. They said the anti-U.S. Sadr faction in
INA, led by the older Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, could win 40 out of 73
votes in the bloc. During the elections, Sadr vowed to bolster Iraqi
nationalism and enact reforms.
"The Sadrists exhibit the whole spectrum from pro-Iranian to
anti-Iranian, and the former will do their utmost to hold on to a pan-Shiite
alliance," Visser said in a briefing with bloggers on March 22.
Sadr has also led the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army, regarded as one of the
largest of the Shi'ite militias. In 2008, the government of Prime Minister
Nouri Al Maliki ordered an offensive against Mahdi Army in Baghdad and
"Our effect on the formation of the new government will be obvious,"
Sadr bloc parliamentary candidate Hakim Al Zamili said.
During the campaign, Sadr promised to accelerate the U.S. withdrawal
from Iraq. Sadr has become a leading rival of Al Maliki and was likely to
support challenger Iyad Alawi, a former prime minister.
But Iraqi sources said INA has been discussing the possibility of a
merger with Al Maliki's party. They said it was not unclear whether Sadr
would support the move.
Analysts as well as Iraqi politicians have assessed that Al Maliki would
not be quick to concede defeat to Alawi. They said Iraq's security forces
have been placed on alert for post-election violence.
"Many of the terrorist operations increased before the elections and
calmed down in recent days," Shi'ite candidate Haider Abadi, a member of Al
Maliki's Al Dawa Party, said. "This suggests that certain parties were
behind these activities. We are concerned that this could resume if they
don't achieve good results in the elections."