After the fire of the polls, the cleric Sadr says that the Iraqis should join

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called on Iraqis to show unity rather than disputes over a possible re-run of the bloc's election last month, in statements that appeared aimed at defusing political tension After a storage site with an electoral ballot boxes burned down

PHOTO OF THE FILE: Smoke leaves a storage site in Baghdad, housing ballot boxes for the parliamentary elections in May in Iraq, Iraq, June 10, 2018. REUTERS / Khalid al-Mousily / Photo Archive

Parliament has ordered a manual recount of the election in which several political parties alleged fraud. A storage site with half of the capital's polls caught fire on Sunday in what Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called a "plot to harm the nation and its democracy."

The authorities say that the ballot boxes were saved and that the fire will not affect the count. However, it has added to fears that disputes over the outcome of the vote may turn violent.

Sadr, a Shiite cleric who once led violent campaigns against the US occupation, has become a nationalist opponent of the powerful Shiite religious parties allied with Iran. He achieved a surprise victory in the elections, with his followers emerging as the largest political bloc in a highly fractured parliament.

"Stop fighting for seats, charges, profits, influence, power and government," he wrote in an article published by his office.

"Is not it time to present yourself as a building and a reconstruction instead of burning ballot boxes or repeating elections just for a seat or two?" Sadr wrote.

PHOTO OF THE ARCHIVE: Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a press conference with Iraqi politician Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Hikma stream, in Najaf, Iraq on May 17, 2018. REUTERS / Alaa al-Marjani / File Photo

The election, the first since the defeat of the Islamic State group that seized a third of Iraq in 2014, raised hopes that Iraqis could put aside long-standing sectarian and community divisions to its reconstruction Sadr's followers campaigned on an unlikely alliance with communists and other secular groups.

Sadr has mobilized tens of thousands of supporters in the past to protest in the streets against the government policies he opposed. He said there were some attempts to cause a civil war, but he promised that he would not participate in one.

"I will not sell the nation by seats and I will not sell people by proxy, Iraq is my concern, positions for me do not mean much," Sadr wrote.

One of Sadr's chief aides had said on Sunday that the fire at the polls was intended to force a repeat election or hide the fraud.

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The outgoing Salim al-Jabouri, who lost his seat, asked that the election be repeated after the fire, which said that It was fraud had taken place.

In the elections, Iraq used an electronic vote counting system for the first time. Some Iraqi politicians had argued that manual counting was necessary to ensure that the electronic system did not conceal fraud.

Miru Systems, the Korean company that provided the electronic equipment under a $ 135 million contract, said there was nothing wrong with its system.

"We have reviewed our electoral device provided to Iraq after the accusation of fraud broke out, and we discovered that there has been no malfunction in the device or in its system," said a spokesman.

Sadr led uprisings against US occupation troops, prompting the Pentagon to call its Mehdi Army the biggest threat to Iraq's security at that time.

His father and another relative were both great ayatollahs, spiritual leaders of Iraq's Shiite majority community, killed under Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein. His posters can be seen in Baghdad and in the southern Shiite territory.

Report of Ahmed Aboulenein; Written by Michael Georgy; Edited by Angus MacSwan and Peter Graff


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