Supporters of Iraqi security forces and political parties disputed the results of October’s general election clashed in Baghdad on Friday, resulting in more than 100 injuries, according to local police and health workers.
About 300 protesters demonstrated in response to the results of the October 10 election, in which their political parties lost dozens of seats in parliament. Many of these parties include armed wings and are aligned with Iran.
As protesters pelted stones and marched towards the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, where government buildings and foreign embassies are located, police used tear gas, water cannons and ammunition to push them back, according to security sources. .
The health ministry reported that of the estimated 125 injuries, only 27 were protesters, mostly from inhaling the fumes. The rest of the injured were members of the security force who were pelted with stones.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered an inquiry into the violence.
Shia political parties that lost seats in elections are backed by Iran and support its model of democratic governance, which has been rejected by many of their fellow Iraqi Shiites, including populist cleric Muktada al-Sadr.
After the vote, supporters of these parties set up tents in the Green Zone as part of an ongoing sit-in to dispute the election results and began threatening violence if their demands were not met.
The parties claim that there were irregularities in the voting process and counting. However, they have not presented enough evidence to support the claims.
Both the United States and the United Nations Security Council have praised the October election, which was conducted without major technical difficulties and mostly free of violence.
Al-Sadr’s party performed the best in the election, emerging with 73 seats in the 329-seat legislature. A nationalist, he has openly opposed Iranian interference in Iraqi domestic politics and called on the remaining troops of the Western powers to leave the country.
Al-Sadr’s faction is now expected to begin building a government coalition and eventually name a prime minister.
The protesters seemed to be pressuring the political leader to accommodate Iran-backed factions in the new cabinet. However, in a statement on Friday, al-Sadr urged pro-Iranian militias to refrain from violence so as not to “malign” their reputation.
Iraq’s Shia majority government has been dominant since the US initiated the overthrow of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Sunni and Iraqi Kurds are the next most populous religious and ethnic group in the country and lead important coalitions within parliament.
As the October elections weakened Iran-backed parties and strengthened nationalist groups, the results were largely viewed by voters as a rejection of foreign influence, particularly Iran.
Some information for this report has been obtained from Reuters and The Associated Press.