Sunnis in Iraq demonstrate against elections

Sunnis in Iraq demonstrate against elections23 December 2005
Khlaleej Times Online

BAGHDAD – Thousands of Sunni Arabs demonstrated after on Friday prayers in and around the Iraqi capital, calling for the cancellation of the results of the December 15 elections and a holding new contests.

The demonstrations were called by the National Concord Front, the main Sunni electoral alliance made up of three major parties, and took place in the Yarmouk neighborhood in western Baghdad and the town of Sammara just north of the capital, AFP correspondents said.

The 35 parties making up the front claimed that there was fraud in the elections and called for a fresh vote.

“Yes to true representation in the parliament and no to falsified representation,” read many of the banners carried in the Baghdad demonstration.

“We call for the replacement of the electoral commission and new elections,” said another, while a third demanded that “Iran stand aside so that Baghdad could be free.”

Many Sunnis believe that Iran, by one means or another, influenced the outcome of the elections in favor of the two major Shiite parties: the Dawa party of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq of Abdel Aziz Hakim.

The subject of Iranian interference was the main theme of the demonstration in Sammara.

“The electoral commission sold Iraq to Iran for free, because it is run by people in the pay of Tehran, even if they pretend to be impartial or honest,” said Sheikh Mahmoud al-Abbas, a candidate of the front.

“Yes, yes to Islam, no, no, to sham democracy,” shouted the demonstrators gathered in the center of the predominantly Sunni city.

Results of the elections were received differently by the various mosques around the country, with a Sunni imam in Baghdad calling them “rigged” while cleric in the Shiite holy city of Najaf described them as the expression of popular will.

“The people of Iraq want a national government uniting all of its various elements, but they were surprised by the falsification of the election results,” said Sheikh Mahdi Sumaiday in the Sunni mosque of Al-Qura in Baghdad.

He warned that “those plotting against the people run the risk of triggering an uprising,” adding that “if they are quiet for now, the people will rise up the next time.”

In Najaf, by contrast, a Shiite imam connected to SCIRI, Sadreddin Kubanji said: “It is out of the question to hold new elections".

“That would signify a return to chaos and terrorism,” he said, thanking the electoral commission for its work and calling on them not to “bow under pressure".