Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Baghdad's ballot box storage site goes up in smoke

Baghdad's ballot box storage site goes up in smoke

Amid allegations of widespread fraud, on Wednesday Iraq's parliament requested a manual recount of around 10 million votes cast.

An Iraqi court on Monday ordered the arrest of four people suspected of starting a fire that tore through a Baghdad building storing ballots from last month's elections, according to a state TV report.

Facing the calamity, Iraq's Prime Minister Dr. Haidar al-Abadi (who stays in office until a new government can be formed) instructed the security forces and intelligence agencies to protect the remnants of the voting boxes in all of Iraq's regions and to investigate the cause and the perpetrators of the arson.

Numerous legislative election losers - including lawmakers and the outgoing PM Haider al-Abadi, whose coalition faltered in the polls by finishing in third place - are claiming foul play behind the fire the engulfed the warehouse. "We will take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist all who undermine the security of the nation and its citizens", said Abadi late on Sunday.

Ministry spokesman Saad Man said firefighters were trying to put out the fire.

Members of the Iraqi federal police stand outside the country's biggest ballot warehouse, where votes for the eastern Baghdad district were stored, as a column of black smoke billows from a the building, in the capital Baghdad on June 10, 2018.

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

The bloc of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which won the most seats in the election, boycotted the vote.

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A fire raged through Baghdad's largest ballot storage site on Sunday, just days after parliament ordered a recount of May's election results amid accusations of fraud. "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.

"The middle of the road solution is a manual recount", said Karim al-Nuri, referring to the fraud allegations.

The election should be re-run, he said. However, he explained that it is possible ballot boxes were destroyed.

Earlier on Monday, al-Sadr called on Iraqi political groups to abstain from fighting for power. Three of them were policemen and one an employee of the Independent High Elections Commission.

He said the main issue was with the electronic vote-counting machines that were used for the first time on 12 May.

But a repeat of the election is unlikely, analysts say, as none of the top parties have endorsed this step, and many incumbent lawmakers have lost their seats and thus lack legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Over 170 lawmakers had made a decision to suspend Article 38 of the electoral law, which stipulates that vote counting shall be done electronically, while members of the Supreme Electoral Committee are to be replaced by nine judges to oversee the vote recount.

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