Iran's PressTV reported earlier that with 98 percent of the votes counted, incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is apparently enroute to an authoritative victory, collecting nearly 65 percent of the vote. His campaign manager Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi has already claimed victory. Additional in-country report from the Tehran Times. CNN has also filed a report, more valuable for background rather than currency.
According to reports from the Election Commission Headquarters, the latest previous statistics announced by the Iranian electoral officials showed 38 million (98 percent) of the ballots have been counted at the time. Turnout is now reported at 85 percent. About 46.2 million Iranians -- out of a total population of 70.4 million -- are eligible to vote; expatriate Iranians voted at Iranian legations abroad. Long queues formed even before the polling stations opened. Some polling stations ran out of ballots, but the people were so enthusiastic to vote that they waited for electoral officials to bring more ballots. The numbers released after results declared official:
-- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (conservative): 62.6 percent
-- Mir Hossein Mousavi (reformist): 33.8 percent
-- Mohsen Rezaei (conservative): 1.7 percent
-- Mehdi Karroubi (reformist): 0.9 percent
Mousavi is a former prime minister, Rezaei the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Karroubi a former two time speaker of the Majlis from 1989-92 and 2000-04.
But Mir Hossein Mousavi is already disputing the outcome, claiming victory with 54 percent of the votes. Mousavi, who was supported by former President Mohammad Khatami, complained of irregularities in the election, including a shortage of ballot papers and attacks on his campaign offices. Police did arrest one person for attacking a mobile polling station. Since this post, protests against the outcome have occurred in Tehran, as shown in the following video shot by a Mousavi supporter:
Another video of a street protest, which cannot be embedded, is available HERE. Note that the protestors in front of the camera are chanting "We want freedom" in English, in a country that speaks Farsi. Hmmm...can you say "photo op"?
But Samareh Hashemi dismisses Mousavi's complaints. "According to the votes counted so far, 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," he was quoted as saying by Fars news agency. Pre-election polls revealed such a wide variety of results that they cannot be viewed as reliable political indicators.
The candidates' preliminary reaction was recorded by the Tehran Times. President Ahmadinejad said the election is the “launch pad toward the summits of glory.” He also extended his gratitude to the nation for their “sacrifice, forbearance, and tolerance.” Mir-Hossein Mousavi thanked the people for their massive participation in the election. “The unity which has been created among the people provides a golden opportunity for us, and we should not regard it as a threat,” Mousavi said in front of the south Tehran polling station where he cast his ballot. Mahdi Karroubi told reporters that officials should perform their duties efficiently and respect the people’s vote, saying “Whether I am elected or not, I am grateful (to the nation).” And finally, Mohsen Rezaii stated that a spirit of “brotherhood and cooperation” should be promoted after the election. “Before the election, the competition should be serious. However, after the election, we should promote brotherhood and cooperation.”
The two leading candidates appealed to slightly different constituencies. President Ahmadinejad's strength lay in the rural and working classes, while Mousavi's strength lay in the creative classes, the university-trained, and expatriates abroad. Sky News believes that an Ahmadinejad victory will embolden hardliners to continue the strict social laws governing the country to the dismay of the younger liberal sections of society. Ahmadinejad's questionable economic policies will be maintained and foreign investment is unlikely to reverse the current position of staying away from Iran. On the international front, Iran will, as before, be speaking with one strong hardline voice on the nuclear issue. There will be few restraining, moderate, voices in government.
The wild card will be the official U.S. reaction. Will the American government finally set aside its confrontational approach to Iran, or will it finally upgrade to a much more professional relationship? The U.S. has constantly nagged and threatened Iran for over five years, while at the same time attempting to keep Israel on a leash and preventing them from launching a suicidal preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. The hostile U.S. attitude is also affected somewhat by the 1979-80 hostage crisis; many Americans haven't set that aside.
In addition, Ahamdinejad's political incorrectness has fueled additional controversy. Two statements he made about Israel were mistranslated and widely disseminated, providing a distorted picture of Iran's intents towards the Zionist entity. One mistranslation recently was highlighted by Alaska Voices columnist Geoff Kennedy. In a June 6th post, Kennedy points out that Ahmadinejad was unjustly accused of denying the Holocaust. He heard an interview with the president, accompanied by a simultaneous translation, and Ahmadinejad admitted that the Holocaust happened. But his issue was that the Germans and other Europeans perpetrated that atrocity, so why punish Middle Easterners for something the Europeans did? Why not punish the Europeans by setting aside territory in Europe as reparation for the Jews? The state of Israel has the right to exist, but not at the expense of innocent people who had absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust.
The second mistranslation was discussed in my August 3rd, 2007 post. President Ahmadinejad was accused of saying that he wanted "Israel wiped off the map". But Arash Norouzi, a co-founder of the Mossadegh Project, clarified this, saying that what Ahmadinejad was promoting was the idea of peaceful regime change, just like when the Russians threw off Bolshevik tyranny in 1992:
So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in Farsi:
"Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad."
That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word "Regime", pronounced just like the English word with an extra "eh" sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase "rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods" (regime occupying Jerusalem).
So this raises the question.. what exactly did he want "wiped from the map"? The answer is: nothing. That's because the word "map" was never used. The Persian word for map, "nagsheh", is not contained anywhere in his original farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase "wipe out" ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran's President threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", despite never having uttered the words "map", "wipe out" or even "Israel".
Regardless of who is declared the winner of the Iranian election, it is high time for the United States to develop a more professional relationship with Iran and end the fear and irrationality characterizing our behavior towards that country for so long. North Korea poses a far greater threat to America's interests than Iran. Our foreign policy needs to be driven by our interests, not Israel's interests.