Monday, 25 June, 2018


Ballot box blaze: Baghdad’s largest voting warehouse goes up in flames

Iraq election: Fire hits Baghdad recount warehouse Fire engulfs warehouse storing Iraq election ballots in latest setback for troubled vote
Bennie Garza | 13 June, 2018, 02:16

Parliament had mandated a manual recount of the election after a number of political parties alleged fraud.

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.

Thick black smoke billowed over central Baghdad as firefighters fought to control the blaze, and some suffered the effects of smoke inhalation.

Al-Wataniya Coalition, led by Iraqi Vice-President Ayad Allawi, has called for a redo of the parliamentary elections after a fire at a voting ballot warehouse in Baghdad.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose coalition stood third in the recent elections, hassaid that burning of the warehouse was part of a plot to sabotage the country's democratic process.

He said the government would "take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist against those who undermine Iraq's security".

Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman General Saad Maan confirmed that the fire had destroyed some documents and equipment but civil defense forces were trying to prevent it from spreading to ballot boxes.

Iraqi authorities said the ballot boxes were saved but the fire has added to fears of violence.

The election was won by Sadr's electoral alliance with communists, with long-time political figures pushed out by Iraqi voters who were hoping for change.

The call comes one day after a huge fire broke out in the largest storage space of ballot boxes in the capital, Baghdad, notably, before the start of the manual recount, which was expected to begin later this week.

"It is not an ideal situation for Iran and they might support a redo, but actually a recount might implicate them if the allegations in the north are correct". Iraq's parliament agreed last week to manually recount ballots amid accusations of voter fraud.

"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.

One of Sadr's top aides had said on Sunday that the ballot box fire was intended either to force a rerun of the election or to hide fraud.

On June 6, the Iraqi Parliament chose to freeze the work of the IHEC, assigning nine judges to run the commission to facilitate a manual recount of votes for the entire elections process across Iraq. State television said ballot boxes were moved to another location under heavy security.

Top aide to nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Dhiaa al-Asadi said the fire was a plot aimed at forcing a repeat of the election and hiding fraud.

The election marked the first time Iraqi ballots were counted electronically and not by hand.

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.

Over 170 lawmakers had chose 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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