Iraqi ballot box storage site catches fire in Baghdad

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

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the fire "a plot to harm the nation and its democracy". He said Baghdad will take all necessary measures, and pledged an iron fist policy against those who undermine the country's security.

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

Videos shared on social media showed civil firefighters removing ballot boxes from the site.

The SJC convened on Sunday to name the judges and to meet with officials from the electoral commission to "understand how it works and get a briefing on the nature of complaints it received regarding the 2018 legislative elections", the statement said.

Intelligence services say that tests of electronic voting machines produced varied results, implying the tools may be unreliable.

The announcement came a few days after Abadi ordered the creation of a high-powered commission to look into the alleged irregularities in the parliamentary elections.

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

Abadi's government on Tuesday said an investigation found serious violations and blamed the elections commission for a lot of them.

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The bloc of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which won the most seats in the election, boycotted the vote. One of Sadr's top aides expressed concern that some parties were trying to sabotage the cleric's victory.

Opponents of the recount have pointed out that many of those who voted for it lost seats in the election.

"Whoever burned the election equipment and document storage site had two goals: either cancelling the election or destroying the stuffed ballots counted amongst the results", he tweeted, suggesting some were trying to sabotage Sadr's gains.

Jabouri's call was seconded by Vice President Iyad Allawi, the leader of the electoral alliance Jabouri ran as part of.

Baghdad is Iraq's most populous province, accounting for 71 seats out of the Iraqi parliament's 329. "The majority of the ballot boxes have been kept in the other three storehouses where the fire has not traveled".

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.

An official statement said a recent cabinet meeting chaired by the premier had named the Iraqi anti-graft chief as the head of the commission.

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