Iraqi leader suspicious of fire at warehouse that stored election ballots

June 11 (UPI) — A fire at a warehouse in Iraq’s capital has threatened boxes of ballots from last month’s democratic elections, officials said.

The majority of the ballots were kept in three storehouses the fire did not reach, investigators said. The cause isn’t yet known.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the blaze was probably part of a plot to sabotage last month’s elections.

“Burning election warehouses … is a plot to harm the nation and its democracy,” Abadi said.

“We will take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist all who undermine the security of the nation and its citizens.”

“It is possible there were also some ballot boxes in the warehouse that caught fire, but most of the important boxes are in the three warehouses where the fire has been controlled,” Maj. Gen. Saad Maan said.

The fire occurred nearly a month after Iraq’s parliamentary elections, in which the Sairoon coalition led by Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr won 54 seats out of 328. Abadi’s alliance finished third, with 42 seats.

The election marked the first time Iraqi ballots were counted electronically and not by hand. Iraq’s parliament agreed last week to manually recount ballots amid accusations of voter fraud.

Outgoing parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri said the fire was intentional and called for a second election.

“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.

Negotiations over the formation of a new government are expected to continue for months, as no alliance won the 165 seats required for an outright majority.

Abadi will remain in his post until a new prime minister is elected.