Muqtada al-Sadr cobbled together a coalition between his Shiite Sadrist movement under the Jawabna (The Answer) slogan and the Communist Party of Iraq to achieve an unexpected preliminary Iraqi parliamentary election victory for Baghdad province early Monday morning.
The "Marching Towards Reform" or Sayirun Coalition hit the streets immediately after the news was announced.
They gathered on Tharir Square in downtown Baghdad, where cleric Sadr has held fiery anti-government speeches for years, nearly every Friday.
“This evening , you see all the Iraqi people out for the result of the victory of the 'Marching Towards Reform' list in the elections, and this didn’t come by chance, this came for the sake of proving the rejection of the policy of corruption and the corrupt for 14 years," Jabra al-Tai, a Sadr candidate, told AFP.
The list won the most votes in Iraq's most populated province, its capital Baghdad, beating out incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's list and those of two other Shiite former PMs, along with other prominent Shiite lists, according to preliminary results released by Iraq's independent election body.
The celebrating Sadrists set off fireworks, honked horns, and waved flags and banners.
“This day is a big Iraqi celebration, the victory of the Marching towards reform list, the alliance represents all Iraqi people," said Sheikh Khalfan al-Kabi, a supporter.
Sadr's apparent victory in Baghdad could have an impact as Shiite-dominated Iraq seeks to form a coalition government after Ramadan.
“We expect from the four coming years that God willing Iraq will be well and peaceful, and work well and peacefully, and will enter stage in the interest of Iraq by getting rid of this corrupt class," said Hamdan Obeid, a Sadr supporter.
The election body had announced that "official preliminary results" would be released by 6 p.m. on Friday.
Sadr published photos visiting the family shrine of Grand Ayatollah al-Sayyid Muhammed al-Sadr after the preliminary election results were announced.
"We call on all parties’ blocs not to interfere with the work of the election commission and we call on our brothers in the commission to work with transparency and integrity, respect the votes of the voters, and accelerate the issuance of preliminary and final results so as to avoid political pressures by political parties and others,” tweeted Sadr on Sunday prior to the announcement of the results.