Iranian oppositon claims election fraud, riot police break up demonstrations
When supporters of Hussein Moussavi took to the streets to claim election fraud, riot police charged in to meet them (more photos and videos here)
Officially, hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won Iran's presidential election by a landslide. And while statistical analysis has failed to demonstrate election fraud, there are some very good reasons to believe that the election was stolen from Hussein Moussavi, a moderate opposition candidate:
It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense.Most pre-election opinion polls indicated that the election would be close, with Ahmadinejad winning in rural areas and Mousavi winning by comfortable margins in every major city. Writing for the New Yorker, Laura Secor points out that leaked government polls taken just before the election indicated a ten-to-twenty point lead for Mousavi, and that Ahmadinejad could not win by a landslide without the defection of a substantial number of moderate voters who supported his opponent in 2005. Given the fact that Ahmadinejad has turned Iran into an international pariah and run its economy into a ditch, that scenario is literally unbelievable.
Ahmadinejad is claimed to have taken Tehran by over 50%. Again, he is not popular in the cities. That he should have won Tehran is so unlikely as to raise real questions about these numbers.
Ahmadinejad's numbers were fairly standard across Iran's provinces. In past elections there have been substantial ethnic and provincial variations.
The Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days before certifying the results of the election, at which point they are to inform Khamenei of the results, and he signs off on the process. The three-day delay is intended to allow charges of irregularities to be adjudicated. In this case, Khamenei immediately approved the alleged results.
So it's clear to just about every observer that the Iranian election was stolen, and that the democratic fig leaf which once partially concealed Iran's repressive theocracy has been removed once and for all. Riot police were ordered to shoot at demonstrators who approached the Interior Ministry, Mousavi and other opposition leaders have been arrested, and riot police are administering savage beatings to anyone who dares question the election results.
The only possible silver lining that I can think of is the possibility that this blatant election fraud will strain the relationship between the governments of Iraq and Iran, but I don't know how likely that is.
(cross posted at appletree)