Iraq ballot warehouse up in flames before election recount

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Parliament has mandated a manual recount of the election in which a number of political parties alleged fraud.

While this option was under consideration together with other constitutional solutions, a fire broke out on June 10, 2018, damaging a warehouse complex where the voting boxes with the ballots of the Baghdad area had been stored.

The latest development comes after a warehouse storing ballot papers caught fire, an act described as a "plot" against democracy by Mr Al Abadi.

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

"Most of the ballot boxes are in the adjacent three warehouses that have not been burned", Maan reportedly declared at the scene.

Iraqi authorities said no ballot papers were destroyed in the blaze.

Outgoing parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri, who lost his seat, called for the election to be repeated after the fire, which he said proved fraud had taken place.

On May 19, the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced the final results of the parliamentary election, which showed that Sadr-backed al-Sa'iroon Coalition was the front-runner and won 54 seats in the upcoming 329-seat parliament.

The extent of the damage caused to ballot boxes was still unclear but some officials have suggested majority had been spared.

But the old guard, dumped by Iraqi voters, have clamored for a recount, although experts say it is unlikely to produce a major change in the number of seats won by their rival lists.

The recount was approved by parliament a day after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said there had been serious violations and that most of the blame laid with the elections commission.

A month after Iraq's general election on May 12, the political divides and bickering over the results threaten to plunge OPEC's second-largest oil producer into an institutional and constitutional crisis.

Election victor Sadr on Monday called on Iraqis to unite rather than fight over the recount in a message aimed at unity following the fire.

The election should be re-run, he said. Abadi's coalition finished third in the polls, behind shock victor Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric who once referred to the "the great serpent".

"Is it not time to stand as one for building and reconstruction instead of burning ballet boxes or repeating elections just for one seat or two?" he added.

Certain parties are trying to drag Iraq into civil war, Sadr said, adding that he would not participate in one. The Independent High Elections Commission had used electronic vote-counting devices to tally the results.

"Nothing is known, but there are people who would not want the votes to be recounted because it would prove their fraud or they could loose even more votes", federal intelligence officer Abo Musa said.