Large fire at warehouse for ballots from disputed Iraqi election

Large fire at warehouse for ballots from disputed Iraqi election

Large fire at warehouse for ballots from disputed Iraqi election

A Baghdad warehouse being used to store ballot boxes for Iraq's contested parliamentary election caught fire on Sunday, ahead of a nationwide recount effort.

Sadr aide Dhiaa al-Asadi described the fire as a plot created to force a repeat of the election and hide fraud.

The timing of the fire undermined the results of an election whose validity was already in doubt.

Around 60 percent of Baghdad's two million eligible voters had cast their ballots in the May election in Al-Russafa district.

Haidar al-Abadi condemned the burning of the election warehouse in Baghdad as part of a plot against the nation and its democracy.

Experts would conduct an investigation and prepare a detailed report on how the fire started, he said.

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A spokesman for the fire brigade said that the fire had been contained away from the "warehouses holding the majority of the votes".

"Election material, including maybe ballot boxes, were burned but most of the ballot boxes were stored in another building and have been preserved", Maan told reporters.

Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, whose ticket had placed third in the May 12 election, approved the move for the recount by the lawmakers saying the election commission was to blame for what he described as widespread irregularities. Parliament ordered a manual recount the next day. He called for those responsible to be brought to justice by the security forces.

It won 54 of the 328 seats in parliament - making it the largest bloc in the post election landscape. One of Sadr's top aides expressed concern that some parties were trying to sabotage the cleric's victory.

Iran-backed parliamentary rivals could nullify Sadr, who has called for his country to be more independent from both Iran and the US.

Jabouri narrowly lost his seat in May and had been one of the strongest proponents of a recount before the fire.

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The SJC convened on Sunday to name the judges and to meet with officials from the electoral commission to "understand how it works and get a briefing on the nature of complaints it received regarding the 2018 legislative elections", the statement said. But ballot boxes apparently have not been destroyed.

Sadr's move, while unable to generate a majority in the 329 seat parliament, emboldens the party by almost 100 seats.

Firefighters stopped the fire from spreading to the remaining three warehouses, where the ballot boxes are stored, he said.

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.

An official statement said a recent cabinet meeting chaired by the premier had named the Iraqi anti-graft chief as the head of the commission.

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