Early results from the Iranian presidential election are showing a comprehensive victory for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Mir Hossein Mousavi. Turnout was heavy as 34 million people voted and the polls stayed open an extra four hours to cope with the traffic. With 80 percent of the vote counted, the election commission say Ahmadinejad leads by 65 to 32 percent. The other two candidates Mohsen Razai and Mehdi Karroubi have taken less than two percent of the vote.
Ahmadinejad needs 50 percent of the total to avoid a runoff election. His campaign manager said the distance between Ahmadinejad and his rivals is so great that “any doubts cast on this victory will be treated as a joke by the public." State news agency IRNA has declared Ahmadinejad the definite winner. "Doctor Ahmadinejad, by getting a majority of the votes, has become the definite winner of the 10th presidential election," it reported. According to Al Jazeera “he not only won, he blew Mousavi away."
But Ahmadinejad’s pro-reform rival Mousavi is not accepting the result and has asked Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to intervene. Mousavi complained of a number of voting irregularities and is accusing the authorities of fraud. He told a news conference overnight that that he was the clear winner and won by a substantial margin. Hundreds of his supporters marched on the streets of Tehran chanting "If there is rigging, Iran will be like judgment day!" Meanwhile Global Voices claims several reformist sites such as Norooznews were “filtered” today in advance of the election and there were also reports of blocked phone and internet access.
Steve Clemons at The Washington Note says Ahmadinejad’s election results “are just about impossible to believe”. Clemons says he expected him to win but says this is unsubtle election rigging. “To be up front, I never thought that Mousavi's strategic policy course would differ substantively from his now unlikely predecessor Ahmadinejad,” he said. “But a change in optics and posture, which Mousavi would have offered, might have yielded significant new opportunities down the road.”
While even Clemons admits that such an outcome was not assured, what can be stated with certainty is this has been the most polarising election in the thirty year history of the Islamic Republic. Mir Hussein Mousavi’s appeal across the political boundaries made him a real threat to unseat Ahmadinejad. Mousavi launched a vigorous attack on the president’s record since his election victory in 2005. He accused Ahmadinejad of creating a culture of dictatorship and cronyism and of “encouraging” government departments and employees to vote for him.
Ahmadinejad hit back in a fiery presidential debate last week. In his 10-minute opening statement, he said his government had been the target of unprecedented slander from Mousavi and from previous Presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. He said these three had led Iran away from the path of the 1979 Islamic revolution, and were part of a current "that saw itself as the owner of the nation, of the revolution, rulers of the people.” Ahmadinejad claimed he was the first President since the revolution to have secured Iran against US intervention.
However, as German Spiegel Online International reminds us, the Iranian presidency is only the second most important position in the country. Iran is ruled under Velayat-e Faqih, or "Rule by the Supreme Jurist". The real power lies with the Supreme Jurist Ayatollah Khamenei. He decides foreign and nuclear policy and is effectively the president’s boss. It quotes Die Tageszeitung which stated: “The republican institutions in Iran serve to balance the interests of the regime's various fractions. However, the basis of the political system is the late Ayatollah Khomeini's doctrine. The 'Islamic Republic' is not just a flowery phrase."