Sadr rejects election rerun, warns of civil war after ballots burned

Iraqi Shiite militias mark al Quds Day with military march

An Iraqi court has ordered the arrest of four people accused of setting fire to a storage site housing ballot boxes from a May parliamentary election, state media said.

The blaze was eventually brought under control, and confined to one of the four warehouses storing voting equipment, an interior ministry official told Reuters.

"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.

"Election material, including maybe ballot boxes, were burnt, but most of the ballot boxes were stored in another building and have been preserved", Interior Ministry spokesman Gen Saad Maan said on Sunday.

But the results have been marred by allegations of fraud, levelled by veteran politicians fronted by Salim al-Juburi, the parliamentary speaker.

A recount would test the number of votes won by Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a long-time adversary of USA involvement in Iraq whose bloc, consisting of secularists and Communist Party allies, won the largest number of seats in the election.

But the old guard, dumped by Iraqi voters, have clamored for a recount, although experts say it is unlikely to produce a major change in the number of seats won by their rival lists.

Recall: due to fraud, the Iraqi Parliament decided on the dissolution of the Electoral Commission and the full recount.

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Facing parliamentary discontent, the Parliament first asked the electoral committee for a recount in several areas and then voted afterwards for the establishment of a panel of judges who would recommend an alternative solution, such as a manual recount of 11 million votes.

A month after Iraq's general election on May 12, the political divides and bickering over the results threaten to plunge OPEC's second-largest oil producer into an institutional and constitutional crisis.

Iraqi authorities said that none of the ballot papers were destroyed in the blaze.

The May 2018 election marked the first time Iraq used an electronic ballot system as its primary device for tallying votes.

Earlier, Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Iraqis to unite instead of burning ballot boxes and seeking to repeat an election held on May 12 that his bloc won.

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.

On Wednesday, Iraq's outgoing parliament also sacked the nine-member independent commission which oversaw the polls, and on Sunday they were replaced by nine judges who would supervise the recount.

Coupled with the historically low turnout of about 45 percent, the allegations of violations cast an unflattering spotlight on the election - Iraq's first since ISIL took over and subsequently lost almost one-third of the country's territory.

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