Election Official, Police Officers Arrested After Ballot Boxes Torched

Iraq election: Fire hits Baghdad recount warehouse

Last week, the Iraqi parliament voted to force a recount of 11 million votes following allegations of fraud in last month's election.

The cause of the fire is unknown, he said, and will be investigated once the blaze is contained by the nine teams of firefighters at the scene in the Rasafa district of Baghdad.

Plumes of smoke rise after a fire broke out at Baghdad's largest ballot box storage site, where ballots from Iraq's May parliamentary elections are stored, in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, June 10, 2018.

Numerous legislative election losers - including lawmakers and the outgoing PM Haider al-Abadi, whose coalition faltered in the polls by finishing in third place - are claiming foul play behind the fire the engulfed the warehouse.

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

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.

The election was won by Sadr's electoral alliance with communists, with long-time political figures pushed out by Iraqi voters who were hoping for change.

Last week, the Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution for a manual recount of votes in the May 12 election, in which Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Sairoon coalition won most seats.

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Mr Al Abadi's statement comes as Iraq's United Nations envoy has called for an investigation into allegations of fraud and voter rigging.

Three of the arrested individuals were policemen and one an employee of the Independent High Elections Commission.

The fire started hours after a number of judges were officially tasked with carrying out the manual process of recounting the votes from May's election.

The election should be re-run, he said.

Last month's election saw a record number of abstentions as Iraqis snubbed the corruption-tainted elite who have dominated the country since the 2003 USA -led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The elections were marred by complaints about the alleged manipulation of the electronic voting system used for the first time in May. He was quoted saying, "The criminals manipulated the results of the elections because they know that the results that were announced are not true, so they burned the ballot boxes.This crime is not an ordinary crime and not a passing incident, but a major crime and a great betrayal of the country".

Mr al-Sadr, who emerged as a kingmaker in the elections, has a chequered and sometimes violent past which has included targeting both foreign troops and Sunni Iraqis with violence.

The legislature on Wednesday also sacked the nine-member independent commission which oversaw the polls. However, it has added to fears that disputes over the elections' result could turn violent, prompting Sadr on Monday to warn about breaking out of a possible "civil war" in the crisis-hit country if growing disputes over the vote are not settled.

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