x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Iranian opposition insists the election was rigged

The defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi demanded on Sunday that Iran's election be annulled as he also called for national protests and a general strike against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claimed victory. Mr Ahmadinejad described the protests as "unimportant" and said they were being provoked by foreign agitators. He challenged foreign governments, saying: "We are now asking the positions of all countries regarding the elections, and assessing their attitude to our people."

The defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi demanded on Sunday that Iran's election be annulled as he also called for more protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claimed victory. In a statement on his website, Mr Mousavi said he had formally asked the Guardian Council, a legislative body, to cancel the election result. "I urge you, Iranian nation, to continue your nationwide protests in a peaceful and legal way," he added. Mr Mousavi has also sought a permit from the Iranian authorities for staging rallies in cities around the country. Tehran Bureau, an expatriate Iranian web site, said that Mr Mousavi had called on all reformist supporters to take part in peaceful marches and mass demonstrations in 20 cities across Iran on Monday while also calling for a general strike on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Iranian authorities detained more than 100 prominent opposition members. Those arrested were from all the major opposition factions and included the brother of a former president, Mohammad Khatami, according to The New York Times. "The Association of Combatant Clerics, which consists of moderate and leftist clerics and includes such important figures as former president Mohammad Khatami, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoiniha, and Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, issued a strongly-worded statement, calling the results of the election invalid," Tehran Bureau said. "Grand Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygaani, an important cleric with a large number of followers, warned about the election results and the importance that elections in Iran retain their integrity. "Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, a progressive cleric and a confidante of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, has declared that Mr Ahmadinejad is not the legitimate president and cooperation with him, as well as working for him, are haraam (against Islam and a great sin). He has also declared that any changes in the votes by unlawful means are also haraam." During a press conference at the presidential palace on Sunday, Mr Ahmadinejad described the protests as "unimportant" and compared the feelings of the protesters to those of football supporters after losing a match. He also said they were being provoked by foreign agitators and challenged foreign governments, saying: "We are now asking the positions of all countries regarding the elections, and assessing their attitude to our people." Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Sunday sent a message of congratulations to his Iranian counterpart and also expressed confidence "that the friendly and neighbourly relations" will improve in the coming years, the Associated Press said. Agence France Presse reported: "The United States refrained from recognising Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Sunday as the winner in Iran's presidential elections, with US Vice President Joe Biden voicing doubts about the outcome. " 'There is an awful lot of questions about how this election was run,' Biden said in an interview with NBC television. " 'We are waiting to see. We don't have enough facts to make a firm judgment,' he said." The Nation interviewed Ibrahim Yazdi, a leading Iranian dissident and Iran's foreign minister in the early days of Islamic republic. He was asked whether Mr Ahmadinejad is gathering so much power that he might be able to use the Revolutionary Guard and his other allies to make a coup d'etat against the state. Mr Yazdi responded: "A coup d'etat? They've already made one! They've created a dictatorship, in fact. Do you know that last night the security forces occupied the offices of many newspapers, to make sure that their reporting on the election was favourable? They changed many headlines. They fixed the election. "The Guards are taking over everything, including many economic institutions. The ministry of the interior is increasing its control in all the provinces. "We have information that Ahmadinejad is thinking about changing the constitution to allow the president to serve more than two terms, to make his presidency more or less permanent. "Of course, there are strong voices in the establishment that will challenge him. It is not clear that he and the Sepah (the Revolutionary Guard) will be strong enough to overcome them. But there will be clashes over this." Steve Clemons, a Washington-based foreign policy analyst spoke to a well-connected Iranian who knows many of the power figures in the Tehran political order. "My contact predicted serious violence at the highest levels. He said that Ahmadinejad is now genuinely scared of Iranian society and of Mousavi and Rafsanjani. The level of tension between them has gone beyond civil limits - and my contact said that Ahmadinejad will try to have them imprisoned and killed. "Likewise, he said, Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Mousavi know this - and thus are using all of the instruments at their control within Iran's government apparatus to fight back - but given [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei's embrace of Ahmadinejad's actions in the election and victory, there is no recourse but to try and remove Khamenei. Some suggest that Rafsanjani will count votes to see if there is a way to formally dislodge Khamenei - but this source I met said that all of these political giants have resources at their disposal to 'do away with' those that get in the way. "He predicted that the so-called reformist camp - who are not exactly humanists in the Western liberal sense - may try and animate efforts to decapitate the regime and 'do away with' Ahmadinejad and even the Supreme Leader himself." An analysis in Time magazine said: "Khamenei's backing of the disputed election results has surprised many in Iran, precisely because it is directed against a substantial segment of the revolution's political establishment. Just as Mao Zedong, in China's Cultural Revolution, unleashed a campaign of terror carried out by poorer young people against what he decried as the more liberal, 'bourgeois' elements of the communist party, so does Ahmadinejad claim to be waging a class war, with the backing of the poor and the security forces, against a corrupt political elite brought to power by the revolution. And he clearly has Khamenei's backing. "Some analysts believe Khamenei is motivated by a desire to prevent Iran from normalising its relationship with the West, fearing that removing the external 'threat' against which it was constructed will fatally undermine the Iranian political system. Ahmadinejad's critics charged during the campaign that his provocative antics had undermined Iran's standing in the world, but he certainly functions to restrain any movement toward rapprochement, keeping in place the fear of the 'Great Satan' that has been an organising principle of Iran's authoritarian clerical regime." As events rapidly unfold, it is becoming increasingly difficult for professional journalists to report from Iran. Agence France Presse said: "Several foreign news organisations complained Sunday that Iranian authorities were blocking their reporters from covering protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election. "German public television channels ZDF and ARD said their reporters were not allowed to broadcast their reports, while the BBC said the signals of its Persian services were being jammed from Iran. "The Dubai-based Arab news channel Al-Arabiya in Tehran was forbidden from working for a week and Dutch broadcaster Nederland 2 said its journalist and cameraman were arrested and ordered to leave the country." The BBC noted that in spite of government controls being imposed on the media, "citizen journalism appears to be thriving on the web." The BBC report provide links to Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and other web sites and blogs that have been tracking recent events inside Iran."

pwoodward@thenational.ae