Iraqi security forces and the supporters of political parties disputing the results of the October general election clashed in Baghdad on Friday, resulting in injuries to more than 100 people, according to local police and health workers.
Around 300 protesters demonstrated in response to the outcome of the October 10 election, which saw their political parties lose dozens of seats in parliament. Many of these parties include armed wings and are aligned with Iran.
As demonstrators threw stones and marched toward the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, where government buildings and foreign embassies are located, police used tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition to push them back, according to security sources.
The health ministry reported that out of an estimated 125 injuries, only 27 were protesters, who mostly sustained injuries from smoke inhalation. The rest of those injured were members of the security force who had been pelted by stones.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered an investigation into the violence.
The Shiite political parties that lost seats in the election are backed by Iran and support its model of theocratic governance, which is rejected by many of their fellow Iraqi Shiites, including populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Following the vote, supporters of these parties erected 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 there were irregularities in the voting process and the counting of votes. However, they have not produced substantial evidence to back the claims.
The United States and the U.N. Security Council have both applauded the October election, which was conducted without major technical difficulties and was mostly free of violence.
Al-Sadr’s party fared 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 has called for Western powers’ remaining troops to leave the country.
Al-Sadr’s bloc is now expected to begin building a governmental coalition and eventually name a prime minister.
Protesters had seemed to be pressuring the political leader to place Iran-backed factions in the new Cabinet. However, in a statement made Friday, al-Sadr appealed to pro-Iranian militias to avoid violence so as not to “smear” their reputation.
Since the U.S. initiated the overthrow of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq’s Shiite majority has dominated the government.
Sunnis and Iraqi Kurds are the next most populous religious and ethnic groups in the country and head significant alliances within parliament.
As the October elections weakened Iran-backed parties and bolstered nationalist groups, the results were largely seen as voters’ rejection of foreign influence, especially Iran’s.
Some information for this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.