A site housing half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes from Iraq’s parliamentary election in May has caught fire, few days after parliament demanded a nationwide recount of votes, drawing calls for the election to be re-run.
Spokesman to the Interior Minister said the fire was later confined to one of four warehouses at the site. State television said the ballot boxes were being moved to another location under heavy security.
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. Fewer than 45 percent of voters cast a ballot, a record low, and allegations of fraud began almost immediately after the vote.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose electoral alliance came third in the election, said on Tuesday that a government investigation had found serious violations and blamed Iraq’s independent elections commission for most of them.
Parliament mandated a full manual recount the next day. The Independent High Elections Commission had used electronic vote- counting devices to tally the results.
A recount could undermine nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a long-time adversary of the United States whose bloc won the largest number of seats in the election. One of Sadr’s top aides expressed concern that some parties were trying to sabotage the cleric’s victory.
Salim al-Jabouri, the outgoing speaker of parliament, said the fire showed the election should be repeated.
“The crime of burning ballot-box storage warehouses in the Rusafa area is a deliberate act, a planned crime, aimed at hiding instances of fraud and manipulation of votes, lying to the Iraqi people and changing their will and choices,” he said in a statement.