Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Jun. 12 – Polling is underway in Iran to select the new president of Iran. By mid-day on Friday there were some reports of election-rigging, with one of the candidates claiming that officials from his camp were being prevented from monitoring the polls.
Tehran, Iran, Jun. 12 – Polling is underway in Iran to select the new president of Iran.
By mid-day on Friday there were some reports of election-rigging, with one of the candidates claiming that officials from his camp were being prevented from monitoring the polls.
Incumbent hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is facing three other challengers: former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Moussavi, former Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, and Brigadier General Mohsen Rezai who for 16 years headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
The Interior Ministry has announced that there are 45,000 voting stations across the country.
Moussavi told journalists: “At present, the authorities are preventing some of our representatives from being present at polling stations. They are not letting us monitor” the polls. He urged officials to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
The three challengers to Ahmadinejad appealed on Thursday to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to ensure there is no vote rigging.
Khamenei had on at least three occasions, and as early as last week, indirectly supported Ahmadinejad, raising further doubts about how the voting process would go. The Supreme Leader has the final say on all state matters.
In the 2005 presidential contest, Karroubi accused members of the Revolutionary Guards of rigging votes in Ahmadinejad's favour. He vowed last night not to sleep until polling was over "in order to prevent any foul play at the last minute" by the Ahmadinejad camp.
Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsouli announced at 11 am that four million people had voted in the first three hours of polling.
Meanwhile the main opposition group People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) said its supporters were monitoring 25,000 polling stations and "no more than 900,000 people went to the polls" in the first three hours. The group claimed that the Interior Minister had inflated the figure of voter turnout by four and a half times.
The Interior Ministry in a separate statement issued at mid-day announced a ban on all political gatherings until the polls close.
If no candidate is confirmed to have obtained more than 50 percent of the vote today, the two front-runners will face a run-off vote on 19 June.
The three presidential challengers argue that Ahmadinejad’s mismanagement of the economy has cause record high inflation and unemployment.
As polling began, state media quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that it was against the laws of the Islamic Republic to smear the President. He warned that those who had done so during the election campaigning would be prosecuted “once I become president again”.
Friday's vote had been preceded in earlier days by unprecedented exposures of high-level corruption by the four candidates in the course of nightly televised debates. In the debate between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi, the incumbent president claimed that former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were helping Moussavi to unseat him. He also accused Rafsanjani's sons of major embezzlement. Some analysts believe that Ahmadinejad had the endorsement and backing of Supreme Leader Khamenei in making the remarks.
The PMOI said whoever becomes president would suffer from the “scathing and broad consequences of these revelations”.
Rafsanjani, who now heads the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council, wrote an open letter to Khamenei on Tuesday, warning of "social upheavals of volcanic proportions" unless Ahmadinejad was dealt with. He urged the supreme leader to "extinguish the fire, the smoke of which had already been detected" and "prevent the eruption of fiery crises” during the election and in its aftermath. He also reminded Khamenei that Ahmadinejad’s charges against previous administrations of mismanagement of the economy and involvement in embezzlements were concerning a period in which Khamenei himself was either president or supreme leader, thereby undermining the regime in its entirety.
Rafsanjani claimed that Ahmadinejad’s remarks were fuelled by an earlier speech by Khamenei in the north-eastern city of Mashhad. He accused Ahmadinejad of bringing up the charges in order to overshadow the disappearance of $1 billion from his administration and thousands of other cases of mishandling of the budget.
The Fars news agency, affiliated to the office of the supreme leader, in a lengthy report on Tuesday exposed major embezzlements by Rafsanjani and his allies. The report described Rafsanjani’s family as the “mafia of wealth and power,” and “Excellencies of the Mafia”. It warned that if the Rafsanjani faction wins the election then “the country will end up on a downward trend and national interest will be threatened”. The report accused Rafsanjani and his allies of charges including establishing “complete control over the country’s life line in areas such as the industry, money circulation, energy sector, export and import of goods, and housing”.
Some analysts, who anticipate vote rigging, believe that the elections are a staging ground of a major feud between the two highest figures of the Islamic Republic, Khamenei and Rafsanjani. “If Khamenei secures a win for Ahmadinejad, then we can be sure of a hardening of the regime’s stance against the people [in Iran] and the international community”, said one Tehran analyst who requested anonymity.