Iraq warehouse of ballots burns

Elias Hubbard
June 13, 2018

The fire ripped through the warehouse Sunday ahead of a vote recount prompted by allegations of fraud during the election that saw a surprise victory for Sadrist movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

A Baghdad investigation court ordered arrest for three policemen and an employee of the Iraqi electoral commission accused of burning the warehouses in downtown Baghdad, which contained ballot boxes of eastern side of Risafa in Baghdad and electronic counting devices, Abdul Sattar al-Biraqdar, spokesman for Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council said in a brief statement.

Though the cause of the fire was not reported, Mr Abadi described it as a "plot to harm the [Iraqi] nation and its democracy".

An interior ministry spokesman told the Reuters news agency that the blaze had destroyed some documents and equipment, but efforts were being made to stop it from affecting ballot boxes.

"It is possible there were also some ballot boxes in the warehouse that caught fire", said Iraqi Maj.

Iraq's parliament speaker, Salim al-Jabouri, has since called for an election rerun in the wake of the fire.

The fire occurred almost a month after Iraq's parliamentary elections, in which the Sairoon coalition led by Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr won 54 seats out of 328.

Officials votes from one district were being held at the facility and some ballot boxes may have been burned but most were safe. "Iraq is my concern, positions for me do not mean much", Sadr further said in the statement, urging the Iraqi nation not to pursue a recount.

It won 54 of the 328 seats in parliament - making it the largest bloc in the post election landscape.

Abadi, whose electoral alliance came third in the election, had said that a government investigation had found serious violations and blamed Iraq's independent elections commission for majority.

Last month's election saw a record number of abstentions as Iraqis snubbed the corruption-tainted elite who have dominated the country since the 2003 US -led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

It is this old guard clamouring for a recount: the outgoing parliament also voted to annul ballots of displaced Iraqis and sacked the nine-member independent commission that oversaw the vote.

The Baghdad warehouse complex where ballot boxes were stored.

Earlier in the day, top aide to Sadr, Dhiaa al-Asadi, said the blaze had been a plot aimed at forcing a repeat of the election and hiding fraud. Two legal experts and an official source at the elections commission confirmed that every vote has been stored electronically.

Opponents of the recount, mostly those whose blocs did well in the election, point out that many who voted for it were lawmakers who lost their seat.

Sadr led uprisings against USA occupation troops, prompting the Pentagon to call his Mehdi Army the biggest threat to Iraq's security at the time.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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