Fire at Baghdad Ballot Paper Depot

Fire at Baghdad Ballot Paper DepotFire at Baghdad Ballot Paper Depot

A fire has been brought under control at Iraq’s biggest ballot paper storage depot after calls for an election recount. Votes for the eastern district of the Iraqi capital Baghdad were being held in the depot.

The depot housed ballot boxes from the city’s al-Rusafa district. Officials say some ballot boxes could have been in a warehouse that burnt down but most were safe, BBC reported.

Last month’s legislative elections were won by an alliance headed by Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Amid allegations of fraud, the outgoing parliament ordered a recount of about 10 million votes.

An interior ministry spokesman told Reuters the blaze had been confined to one of four warehouses.

Iraqi authorities have not commented on whether they think the blaze was caused deliberately.

Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned that security agencies had evidence of “unprecedented” violations during the elections.

He said the main issue was with the electronic vote-counting machines that were used for the first time on 12 May.

Though the cause of the fire was not reported, Abadi described it as a “plot to harm the [Iraqi] nation and its democracy.”

He said the government would “take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist against those who undermine Iraq’s security.”

The outgoing speaker of the Iraqi parliament has said the election should be repeated as a result of the fire. Salim al-Jabouri, who lost his seat in May’s election, said the fire was “a deliberate act, a planned crime, aimed at hiding instances of fraud and manipulation of votes.”

Sadr’s grouping formed an alliance with a number of other parties. It won 54 of the 328 seats in parliament—making it the largest bloc in the post election landscape.

One of Sadr’s aides, Dhiaa al-Asadi, said on Twitter (in Arabic) that he thought the fire was carried out “to cancel the election or destroy the stuffed ballots counted amongst the results.”

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