Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

Iraqi ballot box storage site catches fire in Baghdad

Melinda Barton | 11 June, 2018, 13:28

A large fire has broken out at a warehouse storing ballot boxes from last month's Iraqi election.

Images from the scene show thick plumes of smoke rising from the storage site, which contained votes from the al Rusafa district. "We call for the election to be repeated", he said. However, he explained that it is possible ballot boxes were destroyed.

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.

The Saeroon Alliance led by al-Sadr, the Shia who many U.S. military officials hold responsible for the deaths of USA troops, won by taking the most number of seats. Parliament ordered a manual recount the next day.

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. One of Sadr's top aides expressed concern that some parties were trying to sabotage the cleric's victory.

Mohamed al-Rabeei, a member of the Baghdad province council, said, "The storage spaces housing all the ballot boxes from Russafa belonging to the election commission are now on fire".

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

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

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".

"It is possible there were also some ballot boxes in the warehouse that caught fire, but most of the important boxes are in the three warehouses, where the fire has been controlled", he said.

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.

Last week, Iraq's parliament voted to dismiss the commissioners and replace them with judges while calling for a full hand recount of about 11 million votes.

Its chairman a statement late on Sunday said all of the electronic vote counting and voter identification equipment had been lost in the fire but that ballot boxes were safe.

"The commission today is targeted from all sides. we call on all constitutional institutions in the country and the leaders of all political blocs to do their historic duty and preserve the results of the electoral process", he said.