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Fire breaks out at ballot warehouse in Baghdad

10 June 2018

On Wednesday, a Sadrist Movement spokesperson commented on the parliament's vote in favor of amending the election law and said the parliament and the cabinet are responsible for the money paid for the electronic vote count, adding that the law which the parliament legislated for this is in violation of the constitution. He said it was one of four storage facilities for ballots on the site, belonging to Iraq's Trade Ministry, and that the three depots with the majority of returns had been spared.

Authorities did not say whether they believed the fire was deliberately set, but its timing undermined the results of an election whose validity was already in doubt.

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

Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, whose ticket had placed third in the May 12 election, approved the move for the recount by the lawmakers saying the election commission was to blame for what he described as widespread irregularities.

Parliament mandated a full manual recount the next day.

"The Supreme Judicial Council's meeting saw the naming of the judges nominated to take over the duties of the board of commissioners of the Independent High Elections Commission", Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar said in a statement.

Since last month's victory of anti-establishment electoral lists, long-time political figures pushed out by Iraqi voters hoping for change have been calling for a recount.

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

Top Sadr aide Dhiaa al-Asadi said the fire was a plot aimed at forcing a repeat of the election and hiding fraud.

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.

Smoke rises from a storage site in Baghdad, housing ballot boxes from Iraq's May parliamentary election, Iraq June 10, 2018.

Firefighters were attempting to control the fire at the storage site, which housed ballot boxes of the al-Rusafa district in the east of Baghdad.

However, an interior ministry spokesman said the fire had destroyed some documents and equipment but first responders on the site were trying to prevent it from spreading to ballot boxes.

Sadr's move, while unable to generate a majority in the 329 seat parliament, emboldens the party by almost 100 seats. Only one - housing electronic equipment and documents - had burned down, he said.

"It is possible there were also some ballot boxes in the warehouse that caught fire, but most of the important boxes are in the three warehouses where the fire has been controlled", he said in a video message from the site of the fire.

The council also named judges to replace the commission's local chiefs in each of Iraq's 18 provinces, another measure mandated by parliament.

Before the parliament had acted, the electoral commission said it was voiding 1,021 ballot boxes from around the country, along with votes cast by Iraqis overseas and Iraqis still living in displacement camps that were set up during the battles against the Islamic State.

Fire breaks out at ballot warehouse in Baghdad