A mysterious fire at a ballot-box storage warehouse in Baghdad was another attempt to rig Iraq's May 12 parliamentary election, leading politicians said on Sunday.
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.
Haidar al-Abadi condemned the burning of the election warehouse in Baghdad as part of a plot against 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. State television said ballot boxes were moved to another location under heavy security. "We call for the election to be repeated", he said.
"Civil defense forces are on the way but I can tell you all the boxes and papers have burned".
The fire broke out on the same day a panel of judges had been formed to officially take over the election recount from the ostensibly autonomous Independent High Electoral Commission, the body that administered the vote and had since come under intense criticism for its performance.
Amid allegations of widespread fraud, on Wednesday Iraq's parliament requested a manual recount of around 10 million votes cast.
Abadi, whose electoral alliance came third in the election, had said on Tuesday that a government investigation had found serious violations and blamed Iraq's independent elections commission for majority.
The vote was won by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr's electoral alliance with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by Iraqi voters hoping for change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.
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. 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.
Baghdad is Iraq's most populous province, accounting for 71 seats out of the Iraqi parliament's 329. He said it was one of four storage facilities for ballots on the site, belonging to Iraq's Trade Ministry, and that the three depots with the majority of returns had been spared.
It is this old guard clamouring for a recount: the outgoing parliament also voted to annul ballots of displaced Iraqis and sacked the nine-member independent commission that oversaw the vote.
The commission did not say why it was nullifying those votes or detail any of the discrepancies it had apparently discovered, fueling suspicion by voters and political parties over its administration of the tightly contested election.