Iran Moderate Says Hard-Liners Rigged Election
The race for the presidency in Iran was thrown into turmoil on Saturday when one of the top vote getters accused conservative hard-liners of rigging the election and threatened to continue to press his case publicly unless the country’s supreme leader ordered an independent investigation – a bold move in a country that does not generally tolerate such forms of public dissent. The accusation by Mehdi Karroubi, a cleric known as a conciliator, not a troublemaker, threw an element of confusion and uncertainty into the race, just as the authorities were hoping to finalize the election results, announce plans for a runoff and point to the outcome as a validation of this country’s religion-based system of government.
The Interior Ministry issued what it said were unofficial final results on Saturday evening, saying the former two-term president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, would face off against the ultra-conservative mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was unclear what effect the accusations of fraud would have on the planned vote.
An element of the bizarre was added to the whole affair because Mr. Ahmadinejad, who had hovered at the back of the field of candidates in pre-election opinion surveys, announced hours before the ministry issued its own results that he would be in the runoff.
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. It has, for example, the power to unilaterally reject the outcome of the election.
Initially, the Interior Ministry had Mr. Rafsanjani first, Mr. Karroubi 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.
Geez, the Iranians are getting as bad as the Democrats now.
Seriously, this is indeed quite bizarre. I’m not quite sure what to make of a possible attempt to rig an election for a token political office. Further, unless they plan to tamper with the results of the run-off, having Rafsanjani face off against an Islamist would seem to assure a landslide victory for Rafsanjani and a major rebuke of the mullahs. That outcome would presumably be something the mullahs would prefer to avoid.