Iraq ballot warehouse hit by blaze as country prepares for recount

Iraqi Shiite militias mark al Quds Day with military march

Firefighters extinguish a fire at a storage site housing ballot boxes from Iraq's May parliamentary elections in the capital Baghdad, June 10, 2018. But ballot boxes apparently have not been destroyed.

The move comes following parliament's vote on Wednesday, which called for a manual recount of last month's federal election, the cancellation of expatriates' votes, and the sacking of the electoral commission.

"The storage spaces housing all the ballot boxes from al-Rusafa belonging to the election commission are now on fire", said Baghdad province council member Mohamed al-Rabeei.

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

The Saeroon Alliance led by al-Sadr, the Shia who many U.S. military officials hold responsible for the deaths of United States troops, won by taking the most number of seats.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the fire as a "plot" aimed at Iraq's democracy.

"Civil defence forces are on the way but I can tell you all the boxes and papers have burned".

Al-Sadr, who in 2008 was named as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people, campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, allied himself with the Communist Party and rode a wave of populist sentiment to victory.

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It was not immediately clear how the damage would affect the results of the election, which have been called into question amid persistent claims of significant irregularities and mismanagement.

The speaker of parliament Salim Al Jabouri has demanded fresh elections.

The previous week parliament had already voted to annul the ballots of displaced Iraqis and those living overseas, although they accounted for only a small fraction of the overall vote.

The site was divided into four warehouses, said Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. The election should be re-run, he said.

Interior ministry spokesman General Saad Maan visited the scene and told reporters that "most of the ballot boxes were stored in another building and have been preserved".

Parliament on Wednesday passed a law that mandated a nationwide manual recount of votes from the election.

He said that a commission looking in to alleged irregularities in the elections found "widespread manipulation" and faulted election authorities for "not taking the needed measures" to eliminate these issues.

Its chairman a statement late on Sunday said all of the electronic vote counting and voter identification equipment had been lost in the fire but that ballot boxes were safe.

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