Sunday, December 17, 2006

So how did that Iranian election come out?

According to Iran Focus on Friday: "Most Iranians stay at home on polling day":
Voting stations were deserted on Friday which marked polling day for both the Assembly of Experts and the local city councils in Iran, according to eye-witness accounts and reliable reports.

One eye-witness account from Jame’e Mosque polling station in Tehran’s 15th district said that less than a dozen people came to the site to vote. Even still, several of those that did said that they had cast blank ballots and that they had been forced to participate or face loosing their civil service jobs.

According to reports from Tehran, numerous other districts were empty throughout many hours of the day.

In contrast, there was a high number of uniformed Revolutionary Guardsmen and agents of the State Security Forces on patrol at the polling stations. SSF commander Ismaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam recently announced that his forces would not be permitted to take a leave of absence on election day.

For several weeks, Iranian officials had been promising bustling voting stations across the country.

The Iranian opposition had on the other hand urged Iranians to stay in their homes.

The head of the opposition National Council of Resistance, Maryam Rajavi, called on Iranians to “boycott the sham elections”.[...]

The 86-member Assembly of Experts is an exclusively clerical body entrusted with the task of selecting the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

Following strict vetting of candidates by the ultra-conservative Guardians Council, some districts were left with only one candidate. [...]
According to Fars News, of course, turnout was great:
Defense Minister Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said wide public participation in Iran's Friday elections serves as a huge support for the country's armed forces and a deterrent to the enemies.

Addressing a meeting of his deputies here on Sunday, the General stressed that Iranian armed forces, enjoying a large public support, can defend the country against any threats.

He said that the astonishing number of votes cast by the people has surprised and consequently frustrated the enemies of the country, and reiterated, "Enjoying such a huge public support, the Islamic Republic does not need atomic bombs or any other non-conventional weapons."

"Such regimes as the occupying regime of the Zionists, founded on aggression, occupation, practice of force, assassination and terror, are in desperate need of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) to attain their aggressive goals and objectives," Najjar continued. [...]
Here is an MSM story on the results which seems to support the high turnout claims although the actual election results were not favorable for Ahmadinejad and his allies. From AFP:
Ultra-conservatives close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have failed to sweep twin Iranian elections with embattled moderate forces recording a respectable performance, initial results have showed.

Centrist cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani appeared to have sprung a surprise by reaping by far the most votes and beating a hardline rival in the election for the Assembly of Experts, the body that chooses the supreme leader.

In the keenly-watched race for Tehran city council, reformists were on course to take a handful of seats and end total conservative domination of the body which has prevailed since the last local vote in February 2003.

However the authorities were most keen to emphasise an unexpectedly high turnout, which appeared to have topped 60 percent for both votes, far higher than in similar elections in the past.

"The Iranian people have taken a decision to reach the summit of progress. As soon as they see that the enemy wants to stop them doing something, they carried it out," Ahmadinejad said, hailing the turnout.

However the news for Ahmadinejad's political allies was less positive, with the man seen as his spiritual mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, trailing behind Rafsanjani in the Assembly of Experts vote.

Although both men appear certain to have reaped enough votes to represent Tehran province on the Assembly for the next eight years, the results are a victory of vital symbolic importance for Rafsanjani.

Official results announced by the interior ministry based on half the votes counted showed Rafsanjani in first place and Mesbah Yazdi trailing in sixth. Reports said that allies of Mesbah Yazdi had failed to win seats in Iran's second city of Mashhad.

In Tehran city itself, Rafsanjani was more than 400,000 votes ahead of the second placed cleric, the ISNA news agency reported, citing official figures.

Such an outcome would be a significant reversal of fortune for the 71-year-old former president after his humiliating election defeat to Ahmadinejad in 2005.

His popularity appears to have been helped by a growing alliance with reformists, a fact symbolised by pictures of Rafsanjani voting side-by-side with liberal ex-president Mohammad Khatami widely reprinted in the press.

"Defeat for the supporters of the government," said the headline of the reformist Ayandeh No daily.

"The results show voters have learned the lessons of the past and have concluded that we need to return to balance on the political scene and support moderate figures," said the like-minded Kargozaran.

However government newspaper Iran interpreted things differently. "Decisive victory for the conservatives," read its headline.

The picture emerging from the local elections was mixed but it appeared that close allies of Ahmadinejad would not be dominating city councils over the next four years.

In Isfahan, Iran's third city, reformists had won three seats on the city council, with the other eight places going to a mixture of Ahmadinejad loyalists and independents, the Jomhouri Islami daily reported.

Although results for Tehran city council are not expected until well into next week, unofficial reports indicated the body would be shared between a mixture of reformists, Ahmadinejad allies and technocratic conservatives.

The Fars news agency said the strongest performance had been by the technocrats close to Tehran's current mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, an ex-police chief who has been happy to hand out posts to reformers.

It remained to be seen if Ahmadinejad's sister Parvin would be successful in her bid to win a seat on the body.[...]

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