Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Iraqi ballot box storage site catches fire in Baghdad

Iraqi ballot box storage site catches fire in Baghdad

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

A fire truck arrives at the scene of a blaze Sunday at a warehouse in Baghdad storing ballots from Iraq's parliamentary elections.

Sunday's fire broke out at a Trade Ministry site in Baghdad where the election commission stored the ballot boxes from Al-Rusafa, the half of Baghdad on the eastern side of the Tigris river.

Thick black smoke was seen across the capital as firefighters brought 10 fire engines to bear against the blaze.

"The ballot boxes were stored in another room", he said, adding that the fire would not affect the recount.

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 election should be re-run, he said.

The parliament voted in favor of a nationwide manual recount last Wednesday after Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, whose coalition came third in the voting, said the recount was necessary considering the reported violations.

The move comes following parliament's vote on Wednesday, which called for a manual recount of last month's federal election, the cancellation of expatriates' votes, and the sacking of the electoral commission.

However, any attempt to manipulate the election recount is likely to have failed, experts told Arab News. That faith was already low, he suggested, given a low turn out of 43 per cent.

It comes amid mounting fraud allegations surrounding the 12 May elections, when Sadr was announced the surprise victor of the vote.

Coupled with the historically low turnout of about 45 percent, the allegations of violations cast an unflattering spotlight on the election - Iraq's first since the Islamic State took over and subsequently lost almost one-third of the country's territory.

Iraqi cleric-turned-politician Muqtada al-Sadr is looking to strengthen his party's position in parliament, by forming an alliance with two other lists.

The electoral commission said it would appeal the decision.

"It was 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", said outgoing Parliament Speaker Salim Al-Jabouri.

According to intelligence services, tests of electronic voting machines - used for the first time in Iraqi elections - produced varied results, appearing to give credence to the fraud claims. Mr Al Jabouri was not reelected during the May 12 vote.

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