Here’s an interesting development in Iran’s election, from the New Duranty Times, but regardless of the protests, it looks like there will be a run-off between two hardliners, the Mayor of Tehran and Rafsanjani.
TEHRAN – The race for the presidency in Iran was thrown into turmoil on Saturday when the third-place finisher accused conservative hard-liners of rigging the election and cutting him out of the runoff vote next week, which will be between a former president and the conservative mayor of Tehran.
The accusation of voting irregularities came from Mehdi Karroubi, a cleric and former speaker of Parliament known as a conciliator, who said he would continue to press his case publicly unless the country’s supreme religious leader ordered an independent investigation.
It was a bold move in a country that does not generally tolerate such forms of public dissent, and it threw an element of confusion and uncertainty into the race just as the authorities were finalizing the election results, planning for the runoff and pointing to the outcome as a validation of this country’s religion-based system of government.
The Interior Ministry issued final figures Saturday night, saying the former two-term president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, would face off against the hard-line mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a runoff it said would probably be held next Friday. It was unclear what, if any, effect the accusations of fraud would have on the planned vote.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s strong showing came as a shock to the political establishment here. He had hovered at the back of the field of candidates in pre-election opinion surveys and his political base was said to be limited to the capital city. An element of the bizarre in the events on Saturday came as Mr. Ahmadinejad announced that he would be in the runoff hours before the ministry issued its own results.
The government did not immediately respond to the charges of vote tampering, but the cloud had been hanging over the race since the early morning hours when the Interior Ministry found its results being publicly contradicted on state television by the Guardian Council, the panel controlled by hard-line clerics that has the ultimate say over all government actions and often clashes with the reform-controlled elected government. The council has, for example, the power to unilaterally reject the outcome of the election.
Initially, the Interior Ministry had Mr. Rafsanjani first, Mr. Karroubi, the former speaker of the Parliament, in second, and Mr. Ahmadinejad third. Half an hour later the Guardian Council, which is not supposed to be involved in counting ballots, said Mr. Ahmadinejad was in first place.
Apparently hoping to head off an embarrassing public split, the departing president, Mohammad Khatami, visited the site where the ballots were being counted in the morning and offered words of assurance.
“All our efforts have been to hold a healthy election and to protect peoples votes,” Mr. Khatami said in comments broadcast on national news. “I have come here to thank officials at the Interior Ministry and to make sure votes are being counted very carefully. If anyone has made any other comments, it is not right.”…