Baghdad: Iraqi security forces closed a number of vital roads and bridges on Tuesday as organizers of Saturday’s demonstrations said they were going to march in the funerals of protesters killed during violence with police.
Authorities blocked all roads and bridges leading to the central Tahrir arena and the heavily-fortified Green Zone in anticipation of possible protests coinciding with the funerals, DPA reported.
Supporters of firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had said they were going to march in funerals of demonstrators who died in clashes with police during protests calling for reshuffling the country’s electoral commission.
The Interior Ministry had said five protesters were killed in clashes, while earlier reports said one policeman was also killed.
Traffic congestions were seen at areas affected with the measures, including al-Gomhurriya, al-Sank, al-Shohadaa and al-Ahrar bridges. Checkpoints were omnipresent across roads leading to the demonstration hotspot in al-Tahrir.
The protests were staged to denounce the electoral commission’s formation who al-Sadr had accused of corruption and of adopting an unfair electoral system for the provincial polls.
Steep political divisions and disagreements among Iraq’s sect-influenced political groups had caused the polls to be postponed to 2018 instead of this April, thus to coincide with legislative elections.
Al-Sadr, who had championed massive anti-corruption protests against the government of Nouri al-Maliki in 2014, is now denouncing the electoral commission as corrupt and under influence of Maliki. Opponents to the electoral law say it fails to include all of Iraq’s political and social stripes.
On Sunday, the chairman of the parliament panel in charge of selecting the commission’s members said a new formation would be sought.