The torching of a storage site in Baghdad where housed ballot boxes was part of a plot to damage Iraq’s democratic process, says Iraqi Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi.
“Burning election warehouses … is a plot to harm the nation and its democracy. We will take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist all who undermine the security of the nation and its citizens,” said Abadi late on Sunday.
Outgoing speaker of parliament Salim al-Jabour said the incident proves that the recent parliamentary elections 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.
Top aide to nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Dhiaa al-Asadi said the fire was a plot aimed at forcing a repeat of the election and hiding fraud.
“Whoever burned the election equipment and document storage site had two goals: either cancelling the election or destroying the stuffed ballots counted amongst the results,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Independent Higher Election Commission has announced that all the ballot boxes in the warehouse are safe.
Earlier in the day, the storage site housing ballot boxes from Iraq’s May parliamentary elections caught fire ahead of a recount.
Mohamed al-Rabeei, a member of the Baghdad province council, said, “The storage spaces housing all the ballot boxes from Russafa belonging to the election commission are now on fire.”
“Civil defense forces are on the way but I can tell you all the boxes and papers have burned.”
On Wednesday, the Iraqi parliament has voted in favor of a manual recount of votes in the country’s May 12 parliamentary elections.
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.
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.
The statement further suggested that hackers may have manipulated the election results.
Sadr’s Sairoon bloc won 54 out of 329 seats in the Iraqi parliament.
The Fatah (Conquest) alliance, led by Badr Organization Secretary General Hadi al-Ameri, and Abadi’s Nasr (Victory) coalition finished second and third with 47 and 42 seats, respectively.
Over 7,000 candidates contested the 329 seats in the parliament that will choose a new president, prime minister and government in Iraq.
This is the fourth such polls since the 2003 US invasion that led to a sharp rise in sectarian tensions and ensuing terror-related violence in the Arab country.
The next prime minster will face the huge task of rebuilding a country shattered by the war against Daesh and the US invasion.