Two opposition parties, the Gorran and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), announced their withdrawal from Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Wednesday.
Leading opposition movement Gorran withdrew its ministers from the KRG and Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Yousif Mohamed, a party member, resigned in response to recent violence in protest against austerity measures in the province.
The resignations come after two days of unrest and demonstrations, marred by violence, in protest against years of austerity measures and non-payment of salaries of public sector employees, amid a state of tension between the region and the central government in Baghdad. Some protesters even called for the government to be overthrown.
The Kurdish security forces in Sulaimaniyah, the second province in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, imposed on Wednesday tight measures after two days of demonstrations, including riots that killed five people and wounded about 200.
Security forces, including riot police equipped with water hoses, were deployed on various roads in Sulaimaniyah, the largest city in the province, according to an AFP correspondent.
In Raniya, 130 km northwest of the city, where five people were killed and 70 injured, demonstrators gathered on Wednesday, despite the spread of security forces in the streets and headed to the headquarters of the “Change” Movement, throwing stones at the building, according to eyewitnesses.
On Tuesday, at least three people were killed and more than 80 wounded in clashes with Kurdish security forces in Sulaimaniya, according to local officials. Some were injured when the crowd was shot at with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said yesterday it was “deeply concerned” over violence and clashes during protests in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and called on all parties to exercise restraint.
"The people have a right to partake in peaceful demonstrations, and the authorities have the responsibility of protecting their citizens, including peaceful protesters," UNAMI said.
The UN mission also urged the KRG to respect the rights of the media after Kurdish security forces took a private Kurdish television station, NRT TV, off the air.
Iraqi President Fuad Masum called for calm and urged the protesters to express their rightful demands in a civil manner.
He also urged the governments of Baghdad and the Kurdistan region to “work hard and fast to respond to the legitimate demands of demonstrators, and take serious and practical steps to resolve the problem of salaries payment.”
He reiterated the need to start a serious and comprehensive dialogue between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to resolve all differences between the two sides on the basis of the Constitution.