Skepticism of the results of Friday’s Iranian presidential vote, which run wildly counter to polling that showed challenger Mousavi with a commanding lead in the days before the vote, is now the accepted reaction across the world. Yet the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i almost immediately declared the dubious figures a “divine” mandate for Ahmedinejad, without any review or investigation into alleged irregularities whatsoever. Reaction to opposition supporters’ calls for an investigation or a new round of voting has been a swift and violent crackdown on demonstrators.
The New York Times reports today that “The authorities closed universities in Tehran, blocked cell-phone transmissions and access to Facebook and some other Web sites, and for a second day shut down text-messaging services”. Pres. Ahmedinejad has suggested those who oppose the official vote-count may be detained. Yesterday, unarmed civilians were beaten in the streets, as security forces charged into crowds of demonstrators. Reports suggest at least one person was shot and killed.
Dozens of reformist politicians were said to have been arrested at their homes overnight, according to news reports on Sunday and a witness who worked with the politicians. There were also reports of politicians and clerics being placed under house arrest.
Reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has decried the official count as a fraud, is thought to have been arrested to keep him from attending public gatherings supporting his allegations. He has not been seen in public since the night of the election.
A statement was posted on his website, however, reading “I wrote a letter to the Guardian Council asking them to cancel the result of the recent (presidential) election”. Mousavi also addressed his disillusioned supporters in the statement, saying: “I again emphatically advise you to continue the civil and legal opposition throughout the country peacefully and observe non-confrontation principle”.
Rumors are now circulating of how the count may have been manipulated. One claim, allegedly made by a someone related to a government insider, argues that direct orders were given that 1,000 votes for Ahmedinejad should be recorded as 3,000. There are also allegations the ballot was designed to trap opposition voters into choosing Ahmedinejad. According to Times reporter Bill Keller, “Voters were obliged to choose a candidate and fill in a code. Though Mr. Moussavi was candidate No. 4, the code No. 44 signified Mr. Ahmadinejad.”
An unnamed source in the Interior Ministry reportedly told international press that the fraud was in the works for weeks. The source explicitly speaks of a “purge” of any and all staff members who might not be in agreement with the fraud, and their replacement with “pliable” officials willing to carry out the nationwide vote fraud. Mousavi has called for a cancellation of the election results and a new round of voting, but the Guardian Council is unlikely to act in any way contrary to the will of the supreme leader.
Observers inside and outside Iran are now forced to face the question of whether the regime is openly professing its hostility to the democratic processes mandated by the nation’s revolutionary constitution. The planned use of force against civilians, the president’s promise to detain opposition leaders, reports from insiders about a planned, systematic electoral fraud, and the supreme leader’s immediate declaration of a “divine” mandate for Ahmedinejad, all suggest a flippant and callous use of power —even a blasphemous and cynical use of religion— to impose the will of regime hardliners.
US vice president Joe Biden today said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that “There’s an awful lot of questions about how this election was run”. One example is the analysis that found that of the record 85% turnout, over 70% of the voters were from urban centers, which should heavily favor opposition leader Mousavi. Another anomaly cited by the US is the fact that the official results show Mousavi losing even in his own hometown.
With a young population of passionate opposition supporters, non-violent rallies may continue, and security forces may be ordered to disperse the crowds. Disapproval of the hardline taken by Pres. Ahmedinejad is mounting, and the ruling clerics have now clearly aligned themselves with arguably the most reviled political figure in the country, who may have received only one-third as much support as they claim. The democratic credibility of the regime is now firmly in question and the problem of public consent will now be increasingly pressing. The question is: is there any way the Guardian Council can reverse course on the Ayatollah’s endorsement of the results, and if not, what will be done to balance the regime’s interests against those of the people?