Iraq Interior Minister Says Ballot Boxes Fire ‘Deliberate’ as Sadr Urges Unity

Iraqi Shiite militias mark al Quds Day with military march

A fire broke out in the largest storage space of ballot boxes in Baghdad, sources from the Iraqi Ministry of Internal Affairs said.

The controversy over Iraq's parliamentary election results has deepened further after burning of a warehouse where ballot boxes were kept in Baghdad on Sunday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that serious violations occurred in Iraq's parliamentary elections after multiple complaints were received about the tallying of votes and the possible falsification of ballots.

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.

He said the government would "take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist against those who undermine Iraq's security".

However, an interior ministry spokesman Major General SaadMaansaid that the fire had destroyed some documents and equipment but first responders on the site were trying to prevent it from spreading to ballot boxes.The warehouse is one of four at the site and contained documents and electronic equipment.

He described the fire as "a deliberate act, a planned crime, aimed at hiding instances of fraud and manipulation of votes", Radio Farda, a component of RFE/RL reported Monday.

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A fire has engulfed a storage facility in the Rusafa district in Baghdad housing physical ballots from the Iraqi elections held in May 2018.

However, Baghdad province officials said that the boxes were part of a manual vote recount and had all been scorched. 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.

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 a year ago.

Coupled with the historically low turnout of about 45 percent, the allegations of violations cast an unflattering spotlight on the election - Iraq's first since ISIL took over and subsequently lost almost one-third of the country's territory.

The parliament passed amendments to the election law last Wednesday, invalidating the results from overseas voters and most internally displaced votes.

"Is it not time to stand in one row for building and reconstruction instead of burning the ballot boxes or repeat elections just for one or two seats?" He said there were attempts by some to cause a civil war but promised he would not participate in one.

The prosecutor's office in Al-Russafa, a district of eastern Baghdad, "arrested four people suspected of involvement in the arson attack on the electoral commission", Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar said in a statement.

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