Supporters of the so-called Coordination Framework, which brings together the majority of Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) factions that lost the recent Iraqi parliamentary elections, staged a protest around Baghdad’s Green Zone on Sunday.
The Green Zone is home to the majority of government buildings and foreign embassies and missions.
The protest was held in an apparent attempt to exert more pressure on the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to force it to amend what they perceive are errors in the electoral process.
The losing factions had rejected the results of the elections, dismissing them as a sham. Their supporters have been holding rallies in protest of their outcomes in spite of international assertions that the polls were fair and lacked any major violations.
The protests were held as the deadline given by the so-called “organizational committee” of the rallies expires on Tuesday. The committee had given the IHEC three days to “amend the electoral process,” calling for a manual recount of the votes.
Coordination Framework protesters had set up tents near the Green Zone on Saturday for what appears to be an open-ended sit-in in the area.
They had kicked off their protests last week. Supporters of the pro-Iran Fatah alliance are among the demonstrators. The alliance was among the biggest losers in the elections, dropping some 30 seats from 48.
Supporters of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, which had emerged as a surprise winner with 34 seats, had also joined the protests.
Informed sources have said that the majority of the protesters are loyal to the PMF and armed factions and that they had taken to the streets at the orders of the higher commanders of the PMF.
Influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who was the victor in the polls, and other winners are wary and have been critical of the protests.
“The losing forces are trying to extort the IHEC to force it to change the results,” said some of the critics.
Maliki at one point had called on the protesters to voice their objections in a civil and organized manner so that the rallies cannot be exploited by rioters.
It remains to be seen what move the protesters, and their backers, will make next.
Hashem al-Kandi, who is close to the armed factions and the so-called “resistance axis”, has said that all options are open after Tuesday’s deadline ends.
Among the options are the storming of the Green Zone and reaching the IHEC and prime minister’s office “to force the government to respect the choices of the people.”
Local observers have ruled out the possibility that the escalation of the losing forces would reach the point of no return given the dangerous repercussions that may have on Iraq, including possible clashes between rival Shiite groups.
They believe that the escalation is aimed at reaping whatever additional parliamentary seats they can get their hands on or at least securing the share of pro-Iran factions in the next government.
Member of the Coordination Framework and head of the Hikma alliance Ammar al-Hakim urged on Saturday the IHEC to seriously consider electoral appeals and complaints “to reflect a shining image of democracy in Iraq.”
He stressed the need for all sides to follow legal and peaceful means to demand their rights.
The IHEC had rejected 95 percent of appeals that have been submitted, citing insufficient evidence and criteria.
On Sunday, it said it will manually recount votes from 234 voting stations based on 18 valid appeals that were submitted in the Salaheddine, Basra and Baghdad provinces.
The recount will be held in the presence of the relevant officials and representatives of competing candidates.