Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hard-Line Tehran Mayor Gains Support

From his childhood as the impoverished son of a blacksmith, to his youth as a student activist against the shah of Iran, to his manhood as a soldier fighting in Iraq, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had a fierce attachment to Islam and to the teachings of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Now the 48-year-old appointed mayor of Tehran appears to have the backing of much of the military, fundamentalists and loyalists of the country's supreme leader in a runoff election Friday with former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. If Ahmadinejad wins, it would be seen as a victory for the most fundamentalist wing of Iranian politics and a devastating setback for reformers.

Machinations continued between the two sides Monday, but the closure of at least two reform newspapers that had planned to publish a complaint questioning the legitimacy of Friday's first round of voting seemed to signal a tactical defeat for Ahmadinejad's opponents.

Other evidence that the Islamic Revolution's most ardent devotees were prevailing came when the Guardian Council, after a cursory recount of a sampling of ballot boxes in four cities, ratified last week's vote. The council, an unelected constitutional watchdog body, ordered the runoff to go forward, in effect shrugging off the reformists' protests.

Also, the nation's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, angrily rebuked the cleric who placed third in the poll for daring to allege publicly that the election result had been manipulated.

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