Iraqis protest corruption, demand electoral reform

Iraq, demonstration, Baghdad, Muqtada al-Sadr, Anti-corruption, Electoral Reform, Shiite
At least 50,000 Iraqis turned out for Saturday's "million man march" to demand electoral reform and an end to corruption, 11 February 2017, (c) Rudaw

At least 50,000 people have taken to Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square on Saturday to demand changes in the electoral law and an end to corruption.

Protestors from around the country also protested at the square on Friday to call for the establishment of a new election body, saying the current one is being controlled by the ruling parties, which are corrupt.

“One of our main demands is for the members of the electoral commission to be changed because they are currently all affiliated to a big political party,” said one of the protesters, Ikhlas al-Obeidi.

“Ultimately, we want to change the political leadership that has dragged this country into crisis and replace them with people who work to serve the Iraqi nation and people,” said the young doctor.

Supporters of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr and several other parties have been staging protests almost regularly on Fridays for more than two years, calling for government reforms.

Sadr’s political spokesman Jawad al-Jiburi told Kurdistan Regional Government news agency Rudaw, that changes in the election would be in the interests of the Iraqi people. “This commission should be free from political interference. The protestors are demanding that the election commission, the election law, and the commission’s members be changed,” he added.

Head of Iraq’s High Electoral Commission, Sarbast Mustafa, recently told reporters that the election commission was constitutional and changes should be made through parliament.

Demonstrators broke into Iraq’s Green Zone, which is home to all state institutions and western embassies and on two occasions last year, leading to fears of widespread clashes with security forces. However protests subsided with the launching of the Mosul operation against Islamic State.

A return to demonstrations was expected when it was announced last month that Iraq’s provincial (local) elections would be held in September 2017.

Muqtada al-Sadr is also expected to make a speech on Saturday.