Fire hits Iraq's biggest ballot warehouse before recount: security official

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A fire has torn through Iraq's largest ballot warehouse, ahead of a controversial recount prompted by allegations of fraud.

Smoke rises from a storage site in Baghdad, housing ballot boxes from Iraq's May parliamentary election, Iraq June 10, 2018.

It was not immediately clear how the damage would affect the results of the election, which have been called into question amid persistent claims of significant irregularities and mismanagement.

Abadi's government on Tuesday said an investigation found serious violations and blamed the elections commission for majority.

The speaker of parliament Salim Al Jabouri has demanded fresh elections.

The fire broke out on the same day a panel of judges had been formed to officially take over the election recount from the ostensibly autonomous Independent High Electoral Commission, the body that administered the vote and had since come under intense criticism for its performance.

Confusion has gripped Iraq since the vote won by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's electoral alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party, even with negotiations to form a new government underway.

Intelligence services say that tests of electronic voting machines produced varied results, implying the tools may be unreliable.

Opponents of the recount have pointed out that many of those who voted for it lost seats in the election.

Warehouse staff ran out of the building carrying blue and white plastic ballot boxes to safety as firefighters backed by around a dozen trucks struggled to put out the fire, an AFP reporter said.

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

General Maan said that efforts were being made to stop the blaze from affecting ballot boxes in the three other sites.

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

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.

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.

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.

"There are some papers and equipment of the commision burning in the storehouse that has caught fire", Maan said, according to Rudaw.

"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.