By Amir al-Saadi
Iraqi President Fuad Masum has called for calm in the wake of deadly protests in the capital Baghdad that left at least five dead.
Thousands of supporters of firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrated in Baghdad on Saturday to demand the dissolution of the country’s electoral commission.
The protests turned deadly when demonstrators attempted to move on Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which houses government institutions and foreign embassies, leaving four protesters and one policeman dead.
In a statement, Masum called for all Iraqis to exercise self-restraint and not to attack members and offices of Iraq’s High Election Commission.
“We also call on the legislative authority to take the demands of the protestors into consideration,” he said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, for his part, called for launching an investigation into the violence.
Al-Sadr has called for protests with a view to changing the electoral panel, who says its members were not suited to hold fair elections in Iraq.
Iraqi legislative elections are slated for April of next year.
For the past year, al-Sadr’s supporters have staged numerous protests in Baghdad in an effort to pressure al-Abadi to appoint a government of "technocrats" untainted by corruption or sectarian affiliations.
In a dramatic turn of events last summer, thousands of al-Sadr loyalists stormed Iraq’s parliament -- located in the Green Zone -- to press home their demands.
In mid-2015, parliament approved a sweeping raft of reforms ostensibly aimed at meeting popular demands to eliminate government corruption and streamline state bureaucracy.