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Protests erupt after Iranian election
Monday, June 15, 2009 : Clashes between police and supporters of defeated candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi erupted in the Iranian capital of Tehran over the weekend, after election officials declared the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner in last Friday’s presidential election.
Mousavi, widely promoted in the international press as riding a wave of popular opposition, received just 34 percent against 63 percent for Ahmadinejad. Disappointed supporters, mostly young people, took to the streets, burning vehicles, torching shop fronts and clashing with riot police to vent their anger over the result. US and Western media have generally inflated the extent of the protests and the police crackdown. In an on-the-spot report, BBC journalist John Simpson breathlessly speculated on whether he was witnessing the beginning of a revolution against the regime—from a crowd that he estimated at 3,000. The Los Angeles Times reported that “huge swathes of the capital erupted in fiery riots” but went on to describe clashes involving “hundreds” of demonstrators chanting “Down with dictatorship!” and “Give me my vote back!” There are reports that up to 100 people have been arrested, including 10 leaders of two groups that backed Mousavi. At one point it was reported that Mousavi had been detained, but his wife denied that was the case. The brother of ex-president Mohammad Khatami was detained then later released. Al-Arabiya television was shut down for a week and a number of websites have been blocked. Mobile phones, which were not functioning on Saturday, were working again on Sunday. Undoubtedly, there was bitter disappointment among layers of students and young people who expected that a Mousavi victory would bring an easing of the Iranian regime’s anti-democratic restrictions. Mousavi branded the outcome “a dangerous charade” and protested against the “numerous and blatant irregularities” in the vote count. Yesterday, he wrote to the Guardian Council calling for the election to be annulled. The other so-called reform candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who polled just 0.8 percent, condemned the result as “engineered” and “ridiculous”. Several commentators have pointed to anomalies in the results. The Christian Science Monitor, for instance, noted: “Mousavi lost to Ahmadinejad in his hometown and ethnic Azeri heartland; reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi lost in his ethnic Lur home province and scored only a miniscule number of votes nationwide; and Ahmadinejad won Tehran and many other urban centres, where he has long been considered to have less support than rural areas.” While election rigging probably took place, the outcome is not the “surprise” and “shock” presented in the international media. All of the candidates—the conservatives Ahmadinejad and Mohsen Rezai, and the reformers Mousavi and Karroubi—were vetted by the unelected Guardian Council and are part of the political establishment. In the final weeks, the campaign was highly polarised around Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, who represent different factions of the ruling elite. As a result, the very low votes for Rezai and Karroubi are hardly surprising. Read More