Riots erupt in Tehran over 'stolen' election
Ian Black and Saeed Kamali Dehghan in Tehran
Saturday 13 June 2009
Iran is facing political turmoil after hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was confirmed today as the winner of the presidential election and outraged supporters of his chief rival took to the streets to protest against a "dangerous charade" after a record 85% turnout. Tonight riot police in Tehran faced thousands of angry demonstrators shouting "death to dictatorship" amid shock and confusion after the official result backed Ahmadinejad's claim to have won, made barely an hour after the polls closed on Friday night.
"The regime is making a decision to shape the direction of Iran for the next decade," a political analyst, Saeed Laylaz, said. "I'm sure they didn't even count the votes. I do not accept this result. It is false. It should be the opposite. If Ahmadinejad is president again Iran will be more isolated and more aggressive. But he is the choice of the regime." Laylaz had warned before the result that a second presidential term for Ahmadinejad could create a "Tiananmen"-type situation in Iran after an outpouring of popular enthusiasm for his rival in Tehran and in other cities.
Overt signs of repression included the failure of phone lines for hours after the polls closed and the blocking of the English and Persian-language websites of the BBC and the Voice of America - which are regularly attacked by the Iranian government as "imperialist." SMS messaging also failed. Foreign diplomats scrambled to make sense of the reversal. Fraud had been expected but not on the apparently massive scale required to produce an outcome almost diametrically opposite to what had been predicted by the Mousavi camp and independent analysts.
Friday's excitement in the opposition camp gave way to fury. "It's shameful, they have rigged the polls," said technician Majidreza Askari. "What would you expect from the interior ministry of a liar president? Ahmadinejad lies in front of the whole nation on state-run TV." Samaneh Younes, a nurse demonstrating in Vanak Square, Tehran, tonight, said: "How is it possible that Mousavi didn't even get good results in his own province? How is it possible that there were no blank votes? Why didn't the government provide enough ballot papers in big cities where Mousavi had a huge number amount of supporters?"