Saturday, 23 June, 2018

Iraqi PM says burning of ballot-box storage site is a plot

Patty Aguilar | 11 June, 2018, 13:29

A fire raged through Baghdad's largest ballot storage site on Sunday, just days after parliament ordered a recount of May's election results amid accusations of fraud.

Officials said that Sunday's fire did not damage ballot boxes, which were in an adjacent room, but that voting machines and other electronic equipment were destroyed.

"Burning election warehouses.is a plot to harm the nation and its democracy".

The cause of the fire, in Baghdad's eastern Al Russafa district, was not immediately clear.

The SJC had deployed a committee to the electoral commission on June 7th to "take the necessary measures to protect ballot boxes and the equipment used in the elections".

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

The fire occurred on the same day that Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council nominated judges to take over the country's electoral commission after allegations of voter irregularities in last month's parliamentary election.

Abadi, whose electoral alliance came third in the election, had said on Tuesday that a government investigation had found serious violations and blamed Iraq's independent elections commission for a lot of them.

According to intelligence services, tests of electronic voting machines that were used for the first time in the elections produced varied results, appearing to give credence to the fraud claims.

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

Sadr's Sairoon bloc won 54 out of 329 seats in the Iraqi parliament.

Opponents of the recount, mostly those whose blocs did well in the election, point out that many who voted for it were lawmakers who lost their seat.

The site was divided into four warehouses, said Interior Ministry spokesman Maj.

But he has more recently positioned himself as an Iraqi nationalist, critical of both Iranian and American influence and sectarian conflicts in Iraq, and forming diverse alliances with communists, Sunnis and independents.

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".

On Wednesday, Iraq's outgoing parliament also sacked the nine-member independent commission which oversaw the polls, and on Sunday they were replaced by nine judges who would supervise the recount.

The commission did not say why it was nullifying those votes or detail any of the discrepancies it had apparently discovered, fueling suspicion by voters and political parties over its administration of the tightly contested election.

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