Iraq's parliament speaker calls for election rerun

Iraqi Shiite militias mark al Quds Day with military march

A fire ripped through Iraq's biggest ballot warehouse on Sunday where votes for the eastern Baghdad district were stored, before a recount ordered by parliament, a security official said.

Images from the scene show thick plumes of smoke rising from the storage site, which contained votes from the al Rusafa district.

"Election material, including maybe ballot boxes, were burned but most of the ballot boxes were stored in another building and have been preserved", interior ministry spokesperson General Saad Maan said.

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".

Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Al Abadi banned some members of the country's electoral commission from travelling after "serious violations" were reported in the elections.

Outgoing speaker of parliament Salim al-Jabour said the incident proves that the recent parliamentary elections should be repeated.

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.

Iraq's election, held on 12 May, was won by a coalition led by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in a surprise result that pushed out political establishment figures.

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

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.

Jabouri's call was seconded by Vice President Iyad Allawi, the leader of the electoral alliance Jabouri ran as part of. He said it was one of four storage facilities for ballots on the site, belonging to Iraq's Trade Ministry, and that the three depots with the majority of returns had been spared.

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.

Last week, Iraq's parliament voted to dismiss the commissioners and replace them with judges while calling for a full hand recount of about 11 million votes.

The ballot boxes are needed for a manual recount of votes, mandated in a law passed by the Iraqi parliament on Wednesday.

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.

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.

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