Iraqi Court Orders Arrest Of Suspects In Ballot Storage Site Fire

Ten fire lorries arrived to battle the flames

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.

"There is no doubt that it was a deliberate act and I am personally following up on the investigation with the criminal police and the committee tasked with probing the fire", Iraqi Interior Minister Qassem al-Araji said.

Iraq's prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Monday warned of the seriousness of the situation in Iraq by the political struggle after a huge fire that burnt warehouses storing ballot boxes of Iraq's parliamentary election in downtown capital Baghdad.

Numerous legislative election losers - including lawmakers and the outgoing PM Haider al-Abadi, whose coalition faltered in the polls by finishing in third place - are claiming foul play behind the fire the engulfed the warehouse.

"We will take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist all who undermine the security of the nation and its citizens".

The authorities say the ballot boxes were saved and the fire will not affect the recount.

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.

Parliament mandated a full manual recount the next day. The parliament also ordered the Independent High Elections Commission (IHEC) to manually recount the votes nationwide, suspended the leadership of the commission, and replaced them with nine judges.

Staff rushed to save ballot boxes from the warehouse
Image Staff rushed to save ballot boxes from the warehouse

His victory came on the back of an election campaign of opposing foreign interference in Iraq, as well as promising to rebuild schools and hospitals - which were heavily damaged in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, known as ISIS) group past year.

Suspicions of fraud in the May 12 vote led Parliament to call for a recount during an extraordinary session on Wednesday, Efe reported. However, he explained that it is possible ballot boxes were destroyed.

Less than half of Iraq's 24-million electorate took part, dumping the old guard in favour of Sadr's alliance followed by a list of former fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi alliance that past year played a key role in the defeat of the Islamic State group.

The Al-Nasr coalition headed by al-Abadi came third with 37 seats, while the State of Law coalition of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won 25 and the National Alliance of Ayad Allawi emerged with 21.

"The room where voting machines and other election equipment were stored was destroyed by the fire", Imed Jamil, an election commission official for Al-Russafa told AFP.

"Is it not time to stand as one for building and reconstruction, instead of burning ballot boxes or repeating elections just for one seat or two?".

The May 2018 election marked the first time Iraq used an electronic ballot system as its primary device for tallying votes.

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