Vote counting underway in Iraq election

Vote counting has begun in Iraq's parliamentary election. A group distancing itself from the United States and Iran is expected to win the largest number of seats.

Voters across Iraq went to the polls on Sunday. Ballot tallying started after polling stations closed at 6 p.m.

Iraqi media say the movement led by influential Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is projected to be the biggest force. It was the largest group in parliament before the election.

However, analysts predict that talks to form a coalition government will be necessary as neither group will gain a majority on its own. Majority Shias are split into groups, including parties close to Iran, while minority Sunni Muslims and Kurds have solidified their respective support bases.

Major points of contention for the election included US troops who have been stationed in Iraq to root out members of the Islamic State militant group. US forces are due to end their combat mission by the end of the year.

The administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has been taking a realistic approach regarding US forces in his country.

However, parties opposing the US troop presence will likely lead coalition negotiations. The result of the maneuvering could help intensify calls for the withdrawal of US forces despite Iraq's unstable security situation.