Iraqi ballot box storage site catches fire in Baghdad

The political system is created to ensure that no one person or party can dominate, which leads to post-election discussions, a move that has not been interrupted by parliament's decision to recount.

A fire has hit Iraq's biggest ballot paper warehouse that was being used to store votes ahead of a recount.

Firefighters extinguish a fire at a storage site housing ballot boxes from Iraq's May parliamentary elections in the capital Baghdad, June 10, 2018.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known but a local official said that boxes containing the votes from the al-Rusafa district, on the eastern side of the river Tigris, have all been scorched.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said later the fire was confined to one of four warehouses at the site.

Fewer than 45 percent of voters cast a ballot, a record low, and allegations of fraud began nearly immediately after the vote. However, he explained that it is possible ballot boxes were destroyed.

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 a lot of them.

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. One of Sadr's top aides expressed concerns that some parties were trying to sabotage the cleric's victory.

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Salim al-Jabouri, the outgoing speaker of parliament, said the fire showed the election should be repeated.

Smoke rises from a storage site in Baghdad, housing ballot boxes from Iraq's May parliamentary election, Iraq June 10, 2018. Interior Ministry spokesperson Major General Saad Maan said Sunday that the fire has been brought under control.

Around 60 percent of Baghdad's two million eligible voters had cast their ballots in the May election in Al-Russafa district.

Iran-backed parliamentary rivals could nullify Sadr, who has called for his country to be more independent from both Iran and the US. Only one - housing electronic equipment and documents - had burned down, he said.

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.

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 election. "The majority of the ballot boxes have been kept in the other three storehouses where the fire has not traveled".

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.

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