Iraq’s Controversial Ballots Go Up in Flames
Fire ravages election warehouse
BAGHDAD — A fire has engulfed a storage facility in the Rusafa district in Baghdad housing physical ballots from the Iraqi elections held in May 2018. First-responders and fire brigades are attempting to control the blaze and maintain security.
The fire comes just five days after Iraqi lawmakers passed a mandate calling for a manual recount, in response to wide spread allegations of tampering and voter-suppression.
The Iraqi parliament amended election law on June 6, 2018, allowing for the manual recount of more than 10 million votes. The flames over took the building on the afternoon of June 10, the same day the Judicial High Council was to announce the panel of judges who would be assigned to carry out the recount.
The May 2018 election marked the first time Iraq used an electronic ballot system as its primary device for tallying votes. The electronic voting devices were put in place to limit fraud and allow for results to be released within hours rather than weeks. Yet even before vote counts were announced, several governates denounced the elections as fraudulent.
Photos via Yomi Kleinmann
Along side the electronic count, each vote had a physical note acting as a back up should a recount be necessary. These ballots were kept in several locations throughout Baghdad. The largest of which was the facility in the eastern district of Rusafa.
Although it is unclear what caused the blaze, the fire has already sparked fears of sabotage.
“Nothing is known, but there are people who would not want the votes to be recounted because it would prove their fraud or they could loose even more votes,” federal intelligence officer Abo Musa said. “These actions are very dangerous, they could result in a sectarian war.”
The recount would subvert the victory of Shia cleric Muqtaba Al Sadr, who won the most seats in parliament. The Shia cleric, who is no friend to the West or Iran, has already denounced chances of becoming the country’s prime minister.
Yet even as Al Sadr’s coalition took the majority, several officials within the party expressed concern that some within the government were trying to undermine the cleric’s victory.