Hardliner Ahamdinejad wins Iran presidential vote
By Parisa Hafezi 15 minutes ago
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Ultra-conservative Tehran mayor
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad swept to victory in
Iran's presidential election on Saturday, an official
said, spelling a possible end to fragile social
reforms and rapprochement with the West.
Ahmadinejad, 48, received the backing of the religious
poor to defeat moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani, who was supported by pro-reform parties
and wealthy Iranians fearful of a hardline monopoly on
power in the Islamic state.
"(Only) three million votes remain to be counted so we
can say now that Ahmadinejad has won the election,"
said an Interior Ministry official, who declined to be
An official at the Guardian Council, which must
approve the election results, said that out of 18.4
million voted counted, Ahmadinejad had won 61.5
percent of ballots cast.
The official said turnout was 22 million, or 47
percent, well down on the 63 percent of Iran's 46.7
million eligible voters who cast ballots in the first
round on June 17.
"It's over, we accept that we've lost," a close
Rafsanjani aide, who asked not to be identified, told
Although Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the
last word on all matters of state, a hardline
presidency would remove the moderating influence on
decision-making exercised by outgoing reformist
President Mohammad Khatami since 1997.
"This all but closes the door for a breakthrough in
U.S.-Iran relations," said Karim Sadjadpour,
Tehran-based analyst for the International Crisis
Washington broke ties with Iran in 1980 and now
accuses it of developing nuclear weapons and
supporting terrorism. Iran denies the charges.
"I think Ahmadinejad is less amenable to compromise on
the nuclear issue, but it is unclear how much
influence he will have on it," said Sadjadpour.
Friday's vote exposed deep class divisions in the
oil-producing nation of 67 million people.
Ahmadinejad's humble lifestyle and pledges to tackle
corruption and redistribute the country's oil wealth
have appealed to the urban and rural religious poor.
"Today is the beginning of a new political era," he
said as he cast his ballot on Friday.
Pro-reform political parties, students, clerics and
academics had backed Rafsanjani, accusing Ahmadinejad
of representing an authoritarian trend in Iranian
"Ahmadinejad is like a tsunami," a close aide to the
mayor said. "In this election, the people were on one
side and political parties supporting Rafsanjani were
on the other."
Supreme Leader Khamenei banned either side from
holding victory celebrations after a fractious
campaign marred by allegations of electoral
"Dragging people onto the streets ... under any
pretext is against the interests of the country," he
said in a statement.
Aides to Rafsanjani, 70, who was president from 1989
to 1997 and has cast himself as a reformer, had
accused the hardline Basij militia of intimidating
voters to back Ahmadinejad.
"We know massive irregularities have taken place in
steering votes toward a certain candidate in which the
Basij has played a role," one aide, Mohammad
Atrianfar, told reporters.
Officials at the reformist-run Interior Ministry also
complained of illegal election-day campaigning.
"I vote for Ahmadinejad because he wants to cut the
hands of those who are stealing the national wealth
and he wants to fight poverty ... and discrimination,"
said Rahmatollah Izadpanah, 41.
In wealthier north Tehran, Rafsanjani voters said they
feared Ahmadinejad would reverse modest reforms made
under Khatami that allow women to dress in brighter,
skimpier clothes and couples to fraternise in public
without fear of arrest.
"(Rafsanjani) will prevent society from going
backwards and he will give us some freedom," said
businessman Morteza, 46.