When strong voter turnout is too strong

WHEN STRONG VOTER TURNOUT IS TOO STRONG…. On Friday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a speech in Tehran arguing that he would find allegations of election fraud more plausible if “perhaps 100,000 votes, or 500,000” were in question.

By late yesterday, officials were telling a slightly different story.

Locked in a continuing bitter contest Monday with Iranians who say the presidential elections were rigged, the authorities here acknowledged that the number of votes cast in 50 cities exceeded the actual number of voters, state television reported following assertions by the country’s supreme leader that the ballot was fair.

But the authorities insisted that discrepancies, which could affect three million votes, did not violate Iranian law and the country’s influential Guardian Council said it was not clear whether they would decisively change the election result.

Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman for the Guardian Council, described the discrepancy as a “normal phenomenon.” How encouraging.

This was one of several noteworthy developments from yesterday afternoon in Iran. This NYT piece, for example, suggests there’s growing divisions within Iran’s elite.

A bitter rift among Iran’s ruling clerics deepened Sunday over the disputed presidential election that has convulsed Tehran in the worst violence in 30 years, with the government trying to link the defiant loser to terrorists and detaining relatives of his powerful backer, a founder of the Islamic republic. […]

Earlier, the police detained five relatives of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who leads two influential councils and openly supported Mr. Moussavi’s election. The relatives, including Mr. Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, were released after several hours.

The developments, coming one day after protests here in the capital and elsewhere were crushed by police officers and militia members using guns, clubs, tear gas and water cannons, suggested that Ayatollah Khamenei was facing entrenched resistance among some members of the elite. Though rivalries have been part of Iranian politics since the 1979 revolution, analysts said that open factional competition amid a major political crisis could hinder Ayatollah Khamenei’s ability to restore order.

The crackdown on journalists also continued yesterday, with 24 reporters and bloggers taken into custody, including Newsweek‘s Maziar Bahari.

And the video of “Neda,” a young woman who died on a Tehran street after reportedly being shot by Iranian security forces, has quickly become an iconic image and a rallying cry for demonstrators. Time‘s report argues that her death “may have changed everything.”

The painful video is online, but if you haven’t seen it, please know that it’s extremely disturbing and is most certainly not safe for work.