Iraq ballot warehouse up in flames before election recount

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A fire raged through a Baghdad warehouse on Sunday, destroying machinery needed for an upcoming recount after last month’s parliamentary polls saw accusations of mass tampering of ballots.

“Firefighters are trying to control the blaze,” which has destroyed one of the four warehouses holding the ballots from Baghdad’s Al-Russafa district, a security official said.

About 60 percent of the capital’s 2 million eligible voters had cast their ballots in Al-Russafa.

Iraqi officials issued conflicting statements about whether ballot boxes were also destroyed in the fire.

Outgoing parliamentary speaker Salim al-Jabouri said that the fire was clearly an act of arson, and called for fresh elections: “The crime of burning ballot box storage warehouses in the Rusafa area is 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. We call for the election to be repeated.”

Firefighters at the Baghdad storage center

Firefighters at the Baghdad storage center

Questions called into election

Iraq’s May 12 legislative election took place in the shadow of a non-binding Kurdish referendum in which 93 percent of voters supported independence from Baghdad.

After the votes were tallied, the election resulted in a shock victory for cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a staunch opponent of both the US and Iran. Current Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s alliance came in third place amidst extremely low turnout.

Shortly after the vote, a government investigation found widespread violations – blaming the country’s independent electoral commission for most of them, and ordered a recount.

Should the recount still take place after Sunday’s fire, a panel of judges is set to oversee the process.

es/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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