Iraq election: Fire hits Baghdad recount warehouse

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Smoke rises from a storage site in Baghdad, housing ballot boxes from Iraq's May parliamentary election, on 10 June 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The storage site housed ballot boxes from the al-Rusafa district in the east of Baghdad

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

Votes for the eastern district of the Iraqi capital Baghdad were being held in the building.

It is not clear if voting papers have been destroyed or what caused the fire in the storage centre.

Last month’s legislative elections were won by an alliance headed by the populist Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

Amid allegations of widespread fraud, on Wednesday Iraq’s parliament requested a manual recount of around 10 million votes cast.

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.

An interior ministry spokesman told the Reuters news agency that the blaze had destroyed some documents and equipment, but efforts were being made to stop it from affecting ballot boxes.

However, Baghdad province council member Mohamed al-Rabeei told Reuters that “all the boxes and papers have burned”.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned that security agencies had evidence of “unprecedented” violations.

He said the main issue was with the electronic vote-counting machines that were used for the first time on 12 May.

But it is unclear whether the recount would affect the outcome of the election.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Sadr – who once led a militia which fought occupying US troops – led an alliance that won the most votes

Mr Sadr’s nationalist grouping formed an alliance with a number of secular parties.

It won 54 of the 328 seats in parliament – making it the largest bloc in the post election landscape.

The cleric, who has ruled himself out of becoming Iraq’s prime minister, once led a militia which once fought US troops.

A bloc linked to Iranian-backed paramilitaries that have battled the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) over the past four years came second with 47 seats.

Mr Abadi’s alliance came third with 42 seats.

The election, the first held since the government declared victory over IS in December, saw a turnout of 44.5% – much lower than in previous polls.

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