Fire breaks out in Baghdad's largest ballot box storage site

Lester Mason
June 10, 2018

The blaze sent black plumes that could be seen for miles around the capital. An interior ministry spokesman said the fire had destroyed some documents and equipment but civil defence forces were trying to prevent it from spreading to ballot boxes.

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

The site was divided into four warehouses, the spokesman said, and only one, housing electronic equipment and documents, had burned down.

The warehouses contained ballots from the largest voting district in the capital. State television said the ballot boxes were being moved to another location under heavy security.

Locals living in the neighbourhood described the fire as a sad day for Iraq and shared a widely held suspicion that the fire was deliberately lit.

"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", Jabouri said in a statement.

Earlier on Sunday, the Supreme Judicial Council, Iraq's highest judicial authority, named judges tasked with taking over the country's elections commission after allegations of widespread electoral violations in the May elections.

On Wednesday Iraq's parliament ordered a manual recount at all polling stations - although no timetable has been announced - and sacked the commission which oversaw the polls. The law called for the Independent High Elections Commission's leadership to be replaced by nine judges.

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

"The recount is bound to undermine faith in these elections", Fanar Haddad, senior research fellow at Singapore University, told The National. The recount will also "leave long term question marks about the credibility of the final results", he added.

Fewer than 45 percent of voters cast a ballot, a record low, and allegations of fraud began nearly immediately after the vote.

Iraq's election, held on 12 May, was won by a coalition led by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in a surprise result that pushed out political establishment figures.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose electoral alliance came third in the election, said on Tuesday that a government investigation had found serious violations and blamed Iraq's independent elections commission for majority.

But the results have been marred by allegations of fraud, levelled by veteran politicians fronted by Salim al-Juburi, the parliamentary speaker.

In the days after the election, reports of fraud began to emerge primarily from the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, while voters nationwide complained about difficulties using the electronic voting machines that were being used for the first time. Mr Al Jabouri was not reelected during the May 12 vote.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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