Landslide win for Ahmadinejad
Agencies - Arab News
"IT'S A GREAT VICTORY": Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected for a second term securing 62.6 percent of the vote in Friday's election. (EPA)
TEHRAN: Incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was yesterday declared winner by a landslide in Iran's presidential vote, triggering riots by opposition supporters and furious complaints of cheating from his defeated rivals.
Ahmadinejad went on television to declare the election a "great victory," even as baton-wielding police clashed with protesters in the streets of the capital in unrest not seen for a decade.
Thousands of supporters of main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi swept through Tehran shouting "Down with the Dictator" after final results showed Ahmadinejad winning almost 62.6 percent of the vote.
Moderate ex-Premier Mousavi cried foul over election irregularities and warned the outcome of the vote could lead to "tyranny," as some of his supporters were beaten by riot police.
Ahmadinejad rejected the allegations. "The election was completely free ... and it is a great victory," he said in his television address.
The interior minister said Mousavi had won less than 33.75 percent of the vote, giving Ahmadinejad another four-year term in a result that dashed Western hopes of change and set the scene for a possible domestic power struggle.
Iran's all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei welcomed Ahmadinejad's victory and urged the country to unite behind him after the most heated election campaign since the 1979 revolution.
Khamenei described Ahmadinejad's victory as a "feast." "The enemies may want to spoil the sweetness of this event ... with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations," he said. "The president elect is the president of the entire Iranian nation and ... all should support and help him."
Mousavi protested at what he described as "numerous and blatant irregularities" in the vote which officials said attracted a record turnout of around 85 percent of the 46 million electorate.
"No one can imagine such rigging, with the world watching, from a government which holds commitment to Shariah-based justice as one of its basic pillars," said Mousavi in a letter posted on his campaign website.
"What we have seen from dishonest (election) officials will result in shaking the pillars of the Islamic Republic system, and a dominance of lying and tyranny," he said in a separate statement.
In the heart of Tehran, thousands of Mousavi supporters voiced their disbelief and frustration at the results, with some throwing stones at police who struck back with batons.
Angry crowds first emerged near Mousavi's campaign office in central Tehran, where protesters were hit with sticks as riot police on motorbikes moved in to break up the gathering. "They have ruined the country and they want to ruin it more over the next four years," shouted an irate mob outside Mousavi's office.
Plumes of dark smoke streaked over the city, as burning barricades of tires and garbage bins glowed orange in the streets. Protesters also torched an empty bus, engulfing it in flames on a Tehran street. An Associated Press photographer saw a plainclothes security official beating a woman with his truncheon.
There were no immediate reports of violence elsewhere in the county.
Reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who came a distant fourth with less than one percent of the vote after ex-Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai, also declared the result "illegitimate and unacceptable."
The White House said it was monitoring the reports of irregularities, while Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said he was "deeply concerned" about the allegations. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hoped the result of the election "reflects the genuine will and desire of the Iranian people." In Moscow, the chairman of the Duma (Parliament) Committee on International Affairs Konstantin Kosachev hoped for more "understanding and wisdom" from Ahmadinejad in the new term.
The Hamas movement praised the results, saying they proved the "success" of the incumbent government and were a victory for Iranian democracy. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez telephoned Ahmadinejad to congratulate him.
The victory "represents the feeling and commitment of the Iranian people to building a new world," Chavez said in a statement.
Iran Election Prompts Rioting
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, AP
TEHRAN, Iran (June 13) Opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clashed with police in the heart of Iran's capital Saturday, pelting them with rocks and setting fires in the worst unrest in Tehran in a decade. They accused the hard-line president of using fraud to steal election victory from his reformist rival.
The brazen and angry confrontations including stunning scenes of masked rioters tangling with black-clad police pushed the self-styled reformist movement closer to a possible moment of truth: Whether to continue defying Iran's powerful security forces or, as they often have before, retreat into quiet dismay and frustration over losing more ground to the Islamic establishment.
Iran's Controversial ElectionReuters13 photos The Iranian government on Saturday declared victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the nation's hotly-disputed presidential election, triggering mass opposition protests. Here, a supporter of defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi flashes the peace sign in front of a burning pile of debris in Tehran, Saturday.(Note: Please disable your pop-up blocker)
But for at least one day, the tone and tactics were more combative than at any time since authorities put down student-led protests in 1999. Young men hurled stones and bottles at anti-riot units and mocked Ahmadinejad as an illegitimate leader. The reformists' new hero, Mir Hossein Mousavi, declared himself the true winner of Friday's presidential race and urged backers to resist a government based on "lies and dictatorship."
Authorities, too, pushed back with ominous measures apparently seeking to undercut liberal voices: jamming text messages, blocking pro-Mousavi Web sites and Facebook and cutting off mobile phones in Tehran.
The extent of possible casualties and detentions was not immediately clear. Police stormed the headquarters of Iran's largest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, and arrested several top reformist leaders, said political activists close to the party.The activists spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Mousavi did not appear in public, but warned in a Web message: "People won't respect those who take power through fraud."
Many backers took this call to the streets. Thousands of protesters mostly young men roamed through Tehran looking for a fight with police and setting trash bins and tires ablaze. Pillars of black smoke rose among the mustard-colored apartment blocks and office buildings in central Tehran. In one side road, an empty bus was engulfed in flames.
Police fought back with clubs, including mobile squads on motorcycles swinging truncheons.
The scuffles began when protesters gathered hours outside the Interior Ministry around the time officials announced the final election results showing a nearly 2-to-1 landslide for Ahmadinejad. Demonstrators chanted "the government lied" and waved the ribbons of Mousavi's "green" movement the signature color of his youth-driven campaign.
"I won't surrender to this manipulation," said a statement on Mousavi's Web site. "The outcome of what we've seen from the performance of officials ... is nothing but shaking the pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran's sacred system and governance of lies and dictatorship."
The door for possible compromise was closed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He could have used his near-limitless powers to intervene in the election dispute. But, in a message on state TV, he urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad, calling the result a "divine assessment."
There are no independent election monitors in Iran. Mousavi's claims, however, point to some noticeable breaks with past election counting.
The tallies from previous elections time-consuming paper ballots began to trickle in hours after polls closed. This time, huge chunks of results millions at a time poured in almost immediately from a huge turnout of about 85 percent of Iran's 46.2 million voters. The final outcome: 62.6 percent of the vote to Ahmadinejad and 33.75 for Mousavi, a former prime minister from the 1980s.
The U.S. refused to accept Ahmadinejad's claim of a landslide re-election victory said it was looking into allegations of election fraud.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she hoped the outcome reflects the "genuine will and desire" of Iranian voters. At a joint appearance with Clinton, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said his country was "deeply concerned" by reports of irregularities in the election.
Past Iranian elections were considered generally fair. In 2005, when Ahmadinejad was first elected, the losing candidates claimed irregularities at the polls, but the charges were never investigated.
"The majority of Iranians are certain that the fraud is widespread," said Tehran-based analyst Saeed Leilaz. "It's like taking 10 million votes away from Mousavi and giving them to Ahmadinejad."
Whether this is enough to spawn a sustained opposition movement remains an open question.
Much depends on how much they are willing to risk. The heartland of Iran's liberal ranks is the educated and relatively affluent districts of north Tehran. It's also the showcase for the gains in social freedoms that began with the election of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997: makeup, Internet cafes, head scarves that barely cover hair and satellite dishes that are technically illegal but common.
The ruling clerics tolerate all that to a point part of a tacit arrangement that the liberties stay as long as reformists remain politically meek. A real protest movement could threaten their coveted Western-looking lifestyle and risk a brutal response from groups vowing to defend the Islamic system.
The political chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard has warned it would crush any "revolution" against the Islamic regime by Mousavi's "green movement" drawing parallels to the "velvet revolution" of 1989 in then-Czechoslovakia.
Ahmadinejad accused the foreign media of producing coverage that harmed the Iranian people, saying "a large number of foreign media ... organized a full-fledged fight against our people."
Authorities also called foreign journalists with visas to cover the elections, including members of The Associated Press, and told them they should prepare to leave the country. Italian state TV RAI said one of its crews was caught in the clashes in front Mousavi's headquarters. Their Iranian interpreter was beaten with clubs by riot police and officers confiscated the cameraman's tapes, the station said.
"The massive demonstrations of police and army presence on the streets was designed to show that they were quite ready to kill protesters if they had to in order to impose order," said Patrick Clawson, deputy director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "On the whole, these guys in north Tehran who are terribly upset about what is happening are not ready to die."
Hadi Ghaemi, spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, denounced the outcome as "a Tehran Tiananmen" a reference to China's brutal 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy activists and urged the international community not to recognize the result.
There were also protests by Mousavi supporters in the southern city of Ahvaz in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan who shouted, "Mousavi, take our votes back!" witnesses said.
Mousavi called on his backers to avoid violence, but he is still talking tough about pressing his claims of election fraud. He charges the polls closed early but has not fully outlined all of his fraud allegations.
Unlike his ally Khatami, Mousavi is a hardened political veteran who led the country during the grim years of the 1980-88 war with Iraq. He also could join forces with the powerful political patriarch Heshemi Rafsanjani, who strongly opposed Ahmadinejad's re-election during the intense monthlong campaign.
Amjad Atallah, a Washington-based regional analyst, called it "one of the most existential moments" in Iran since 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"You can't overstate how important what is happening now is for Iran," he said.
In Tehran, several Ahmadinejad supporters cruised the streets at dawn waving Iranian flags out of car windows and shouting "Mousavi is dead!"
They were quickly overwhelmed by the Mousavi backers.
The protesters some hiding their faces with masks still wandered the streets after nightfall as some fires still burned. The pungent smell of burning rubber and smoldering trash lingered in some parts of the city.
Hundreds of anti-riot police blocked the streets leading to Tehran University's dormitory, home to thousands of students and the site of the 1999 student riots that marked the biggest disturbances in post-revolution Iran. University exams nationwide were postponed until next month.
Oddly, normal life was interspersed with the anger. People continued shopping and stores remained open.
With the Internet and mobile texting down, some Iranians turned to Twitter to voice their views.
"Very disappointed with Iran elections," said one entry."Apparently still a backward regressive nation."
Another: "Elections in Iran: stayed tuned as it gets interesting (& maybe scary)."
Ahmadinejad addressed a crowd in Tehran, but did not mention the unrest, saying only "a new era has begun in the history of the Iranian nation."
But there were no hints of any new policy shifts on key international issues such as Iran's standoff over its nuclear program and the offer by President Barack Obama to open dialogue after a nearly 30-year diplomatic estrangement. All high-level decisions are controlled by the ruling theocracy.
Brian Murphy reported from Cairo.
Congratulations to the People of Iran and to President Ahmadinejad
People of Iran have made their choice. Democracy won. Despite Israeli military threats and American charm offensive, Iranians reelected their president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by landslide majority.
This is a highly deserved choice: President Ahmadinejad proved his devotion to God, to people of Iran, to freedom of man. He is a brave and charismatic leader: at his visit to the UN, Ahmadinejad reminded us of a young Fidel Castro in 1960 and of Yasser Arafat in 1974. He stood his ground and supported the embattled Palestine in Durban-II, he frankly spoke in Columbia U despite torrents of hate, threats, isolation attempts, calumny and abuse.
He leads Iran on the way of peaceful development and political and economic independence. His steadfastness improves the world we live in: Barak Obama called for peace with the Muslim world in Cairo because Ahmadinejad did not give ground to pressure. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu demanded his head, but became the butt of world-wide criticism himself. There is a good chance for peace in the Middle East, and that is thanks to President Ahmadinejad's consistency.
We call upon the candidate Mr Mousavi to concede victory to Ahmadinejad, and avoid turmoil and provocations for the sake of democracy and for Iranian people. We call upon President Obama's administration to confirm its "determination to seek dialogue with Iran whoever wins". We call upon Israeli government to give up their attempts to interfere in Iran's affaires and proceed with peace process. We call upon Arab nations to reject Zionist intrigues and preserve peace and friendship with Iran.
The true interests of Israelis and Palestinians call for a powerful, stable and independent Iran, as together with Turkey, they would be able to restrain aggressive ambitions of Zionist generals and bring peace to the Middle East.
From Israel Shamir, Jaffa, Israel
In landslide victory, Ahmadinejad re-elected
Sat, 13 Jun 2009
The final results of Iran's closely-contested 10th presidential election indicate that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has won a landslide victory.
"Of 39,165,191 votes counted (85 percent), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election with 24,527,516 (62.63 percent)," Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli told reporters on Saturday.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi came in second with 13,216,411 votes (33.75 percent), he added.
The two were followed by Mohsen Rezaei with 678,240 votes (1.73 percent) and Mehdi Karroubi with 333,635 votes (0.85 percent), the minister said.
He put the void ballots at 409,389 (1.04 percent).
Over 46 million Iranians aged 18 and older were eligible to vote in Friday's presidential election.
Iran rejects claims of voter fraud
Sat, 13 Jun 2009
Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli says there has been no 'written complaint' about voter fraud.
Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli says there has been no 'written complaint' about voter fraud.
Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli has declared that the 10th presidential elections were conducted in a manner that ruled out the possibility of voter fraud.
In a press conference at the Interior Ministry on Saturday, Mahsouli put the number of the total votes cast in the elections at 39,165,191, suggesting the heavy turnout to be a victory for the nation and not for a specific candidate.
The figures bring to around 85 percent the total participation in the elections. The total number of people eligible to vote had been estimated to be over 46 million.
While officially pronouncing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the winner of the presidential elections with a whopping 24,527,516 votes, Mahsouli dismissed claims that the elections were rigged.
"No violations that may have influenced the vote have been reported, and we have received no written complaint," he said in response to a question posed by an Italian reporter.
He explained that there may have been some tensions between the representatives of the presidential hopefuls but added that there is no evidence to suggest that the issues of contention have led to violations.
His remarks came after Moussavi described the official count as a 'sleight of hand' by those in charge of the crucial election.
According to the Interior Ministry, Ahmadinejad received around 62 percent of the votes while Mir-Hossein Moussavi managed to win nearly 33 percent with 13,216,411 votes.
The two other candidates -- Mohsen Rezaei and Mehdi Karroubi -- won 1.7 and 0.85 percent respectively.
In the mass election rallies of the last few weeks, countless young Iranians have dared to hope that real political change was possible. Those dreams have turned to dust with remarkable speed.
Iran elections commentary: dreams of change turn to dust
By David Blair, Diplomatic Editor
13 Jun 2009
Previous1 of 3 ImagesNext Supporters of Iran's moderate presidential candidate Mousavi protest against the election results in front of the police in Tehran Photo: REUTERS
The announcement that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has won re-election with about 63 per cent of the vote sends an unmistakable message: the leaders of the Islamic Republic will not bow to the verdict of the ballot box.
The official result of this contest lacks any credibility. One consistent thread has run through every Iranian election, without a single exception, since the victory of Mohammed Khatami, a liberal cleric, in the presidential polls of 1997: high turnouts favour reformist candidates, low participation rates help the hardliners.
Ahmadinejad and Mousavi both claim victory
Iran voters give Ahmadinejad verdict No-one disputes that turnout in this election was extremely high, with the authorities suggesting it may have exceeded 80 per cent. But the same officials are asking Iranians to believe that, for the first time in their electoral history, a massive voter response has delivered a convincing victory for a hardline candidate.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the former prime minister who was Mr Ahmadinejad's leading challenger, has already said that he cannot believe that all past experience of Iranian elections has suddenly been turned upside down.
Shortly after the results were announced, Mr Mousavi denounced the entire process. "I will not surrender to this dangerous charade," he said. "The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardise the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny."
In the past, the regime has manipulated elections by preventing reformers from standing a method used to particular effect in the parliamentary polls of 2004, when thousands of candidates were disqualified en masse.
But allowing a contender to stand, only to announce an utterly incredible result, is without precedent in a presidential election.
The central question is how Mr Mousavi might respond. He has already signalled that he will not quietly accept the outcome, but he has only two options, both fraught with risk.
The first would be to bring his supporters on to the streets and seek to overturn the result with a massive display of public anger. However, the regime would undoubtedly respond with force and bloodshed would be inevitable.
The authorities would probably be able to crush any such challenge. Despite the immense hardship inflicted by Iran's stagnant economy and the revulsion felt by many Iranians towards the regime, there has been no serious unrest in Tehran since the student protests of 1999 and they were put down with ruthless efficiency.
Mr Mousavi is far more likely to choose the second option: behind-the-scenes pressure and protest. The former prime minister has powerful allies within the regime, notably Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who now serves as head of the Expediency Council and chairman of the Assembly of Experts.
Mr Rafsanjani loathes the president and he quietly provided the money and the organisation behind Mr Mousavi's campaign. Last week, Mr Rafsanjani showed great prescience by noting that the interior ministry had suddenly ordered many more ballot boxes for no apparent reason. He warned these could be used to rig the election.
But private protests will only produce results if they receive a sympathetic hearing from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, who wields ultimate power. The fact that the authorities are confident enough to announce such a brazen result suggests that Mr Ahmadinejad has already squared the Ayatollah.
Until Saturday, Western diplomats had expected the election to go to a second round, a scenario which would have favoured Mr Mousavi. They were seriously preparing to deal with a President Mousavi and carefully assessing what this would have meant for negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.
All this has probably gone by the board. The unique combination of intransigence and belligerence which has summed up Mr Ahmadinejad's approach to foreign policy will, in all likelihood, continue.
Officials from the six countries dealing with Iran on the nuclear issue Britain, America, France, Germany, Russia and China had their last meeting on April 8. They have offered Iran trade, investment and help with a civilian nuclear programme if Tehran will obey five United Nations resolutions and stop enriching uranium.
But Iran will not even agree to a meeting. Saeed Jalili, the ally of Mr Ahmadinejad who serves as chief negotiator on the nuclear issue and whose job may now be safe has not even fixed a date for more talks. He tends to ignore official requests, suggesting that Mr Ahmadinejad's government lacks the will to try and reach a solution.
So Western governments will have to live with this approach to foreign policy. Meanwhile, Mr Mousavi will probably have to bow to the result.
His young supporters, however, will have absorbed a tragic lesson: if you want change in Iran, there is no point voting.
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