ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Vice President and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi proposed a referendum in which Iraqis would choose either to accept results of a recent contested vote or to hold an entirely new one in order to avert an electoral crisis the nation finds itself embroiled in.
Allawi, also the leader of al-Wataniya Coalition, previously called for redoing the disputed May 12 national elections after a fire tore through a warehouse where thousands of ballot boxes were being stored pending a manual recount ordered by parliament and an Iraqi high court.
Many have charged that the warehouse, located on the eastern half of Baghdad known as Rusafa, was intentionally set ablaze in an attempt to either derail effective recounting efforts or to conceal voter fraud already committed.
"Based on the burning of the ballot boxes in Rusafa as part of the series of violations against the election, and based on the reluctance of the Iraqi citizenry to participate in the elections, a formula must be found to restore the confidence of the Iraqi people in the political and electoral process by involving them in the decision-making," Allawi said in a statement released on Monday.
"It must be determined [by the people] whether to proceed with the adoption of the contested elections or instead to hold new elections under normal conditions under the supervision of the United Nations, and to be administered by the Iraqi judiciary," he continued, "so the results will be accepted."
Also on Monday, a judicial spokesperson announced the arrest of four suspects of involvement in setting the fire, three of whom he claimed were members of the police and the other an employee of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).
According to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, the fire burned down only one of four storage warehouses containing ballot boxes, but where up to half the total ballots from the election were kept. The salvaged votes were transferred to a new location amid tight security measures.
Iraqi cleric and leader of the apparent top vote-getting Sairoon Coalition Muqtada al-Sadr warned during the blaze that the country was in danger of falling into a civil war over current election disputes.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday claimed the fire was an “intentional plot” targeting Iraq’s democracy. He vowed to pursue “terrorist gangs” who tried to tamper with the stability of the country and its elections.
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri in his own statement called the incident a “planned hit aimed at covering up cases of [electoral fraud] and the falsification of votes, trying to deceive the Iraqi people and alter their choice.”