Tuesday, 19 June, 2018


Iraqi PM says burning of ballot-box storage site is a plot

Bennie Garza | 11 June, 2018, 09:25

Before the parliament had acted, the electoral commission said it was voiding 1,021 ballot boxes from around the country, along with votes cast by Iraqis overseas and Iraqis still living in displacement camps that were set up during the battles against the Islamic State.

The speaker of parliament Salim Al Jabouri has demanded fresh elections. They say the ballot boxes belonged to the al-Rusafa district in Baghdad.

"The crime of burning ballot box storage warehouses in the Rusafa area is a deliberate act, a planned crime, aimed at hiding instances of fraud and manipulation of votes, lying to the Iraqi people and changing their will and choices", Jabouri said in a statement.

But it is unclear whether the recount would affect the outcome of the election.

The previous week parliament had already voted to annul the ballots of displaced Iraqis and those living overseas, although they accounted for only a small fraction of the overall vote.

Jabouri's call was seconded by Vice President Iyad Allawi, the leader of the electoral alliance Jabouri ran as part of.

"Whoever burned the election equipment and document storage site had two goals: either cancelling the election or destroying the stuffed ballots counted amongst the results", he tweeted.

The senior security official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the fire broke out in a warehouse located in Al-Russafa, one of the largest voting districts in eastern Baghdad.

But he has more recently positioned himself as an Iraqi nationalist, critical of both Iranian and American influence and sectarian conflicts in Iraq, and forming diverse alliances with communists, Sunnis and independents.

The site was divided into four warehouses, said Interior Ministry spokesman Maj.

Interior ministry spokesman General Saad Maan visited the scene and told reporters that "most of the ballot boxes were stored in another building and have been preserved".

The fire started hours after a number of judges were officially tasked with carrying out the manual process of recounting the votes from May's election.

"The Supreme Judicial Council's meeting saw the naming of the judges nominated to take over the duties of the board of commissioners of the Independent High Elections Commission", Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar said in a statement.

The council also named judges to replace the commission's local chiefs in each of Iraq's 18 provinces, another measure mandated by parliament.

The electoral commission said it would appeal the decision.

"There are some papers and equipment of the commision burning in the storehouse that has caught fire", Maan said, according to Rudaw. "The majority of the ballot boxes have been kept in the other three storehouses where the fire has not traveled".

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