‘Irregularities’ in Iran

‘IRREGULARITIES’ IN IRAN…. With the eyes of much of the world on Iran yesterday, the closely watched presidential election seems to have been won by incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though the legitimacy of his victory remains very much in doubt.

Iran’s state-run news agency said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won Iran’s presidential election in a landslide just two hours after the polls closed Friday night. But his main rival, Mir Hussein Moussavi, announced defiantly that he had won and charged that there had been voting “irregularities.”

“I am the absolute winner of the election by a very large margin,” Mr. Moussavi said during a news conference with reporters just after 11 p.m. Friday, adding: “It is our duty to defend people’s votes. There is no turning back.”

The conflicting claims, coming after an extraordinary campaign that saw vast street demonstrations and vitriolic televised debates, seemed to undermine the public legitimacy of the vote and to threaten unrest.

As of this morning, Iran’s election commission claims that Ahmadinejad won 65% of the vote, while Moussavi had won 32%. The election commission, however, is part of Iran’s Interior Ministry, which happens to be under the control of Ahmadinejad.

Casting further doubts on the process, there were reportedly polling stations in Moussavi strongholds with an insufficient number of ballots, polling stations that closed earlier than they were supposed to, blocked text messages, which the Moussavi campaign team expected to utilize as part of its GOTV operation.

This morning, the LA Times reported that “security forces” have “shut down Mousavi’s offices.”

For the West, an Ahmadinejad victory would be another Iranian disappointment. Moussavi is not a liberal, but he’s voiced support for stepping back from confrontation with the West. What’s more, the “results” notwithstanding, there was recent evidence suggesting Moussavi’s message had connected with most of the country.

What happens next? Moussavi can’t go to the courts seeking a just resolution, but he has called on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, to intervene. Khamenei did not endorse a candidate, but he appears to be the only official in Iran who could assist Moussavi.

Whether Moussavi supporters take to the streets today remains to be seen, but there are some early reports of violence between police and protestors.