Monday, June 20, 2005

Iran vote watchdog says no fraud, run-off to go ahead on Friday

Iran's Guardians Council announced Monday that it had found no evidence of fraud in last week's presidential election, saying a partial recount had confirmed the result of the polls and a run-off would go ahead as scheduled on Friday.

"After complaints... the Guardians Council authorised the interior ministry to recount the ballots from a certain number of boxes. It was clear there was no fraud," the head of the Guardians Council, Ahmad Jannati, said in a statement read on state television. "The vote was sound and the second round will be held on Friday."

The Council, a hardline-controlled political watchdog, agreed to an extremely partial and random recount of ballots cast in a first round of presidential elections after several candidates complained of vote rigging.

Three of the seven candidates who stood in the first round of the election last Friday have complained of irregularities they say were aimed at propelling Tehran's hardline mayor Mahmood Ahmadinejad into a run-off against moderate conservative cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Iran Stocks Fall; Concern With Presidency Candidate Ahmadinejad

Iranian stocks, which have risen 145 percent since January 2003, fell today on concerns former Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be elected president of the nation with the world's No. 2 oil and gas reserves.

Ahmadinejad, 49, who wasn't among the leading candidates in pre-election polls, will face former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a final round of voting this Friday, June 24. The first round, with seven candidates, occurred June 17.

Ahmadinejad stands ``for basically everything investors fear,'' said Albrecht Frischenschlager, a partner at Tehran- based Atieh Bahar consulting, who advises companies such as British-American Tobacco Plc and Rolls-Royce Group Plc. ``People are obviously getting a bit worried because of the (first-round) result,'' he said in a telephone interview.

Broken Iranian liberals torn on backing Rafsanjani

Dazed young reformists tried on Saturday to come to terms with their battering in Iran's presidential poll, sickened by an unappetising choice between two conservatives in a run-off next week.

Dispirited young liberals, many of them close to tears, milled around the campaign headquarters of presidential hopeful Mostafa Moin, whose crushing defeat extinguished hopes of a reformist successor to Mohammad Khatami.

Moin came fifth out of seven candidates. The two leading vote winners, powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Tehran's conservative mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will compete for the presidency in a run-off on Friday.

Demonstrations erupt across Tehran, SSF opens fire on crowd

Demonstrations simultaneously erupted in the Iranian capital this afternoon, with protestors denouncing what they termed a “sham election” and urging fellow Iranians to boycott the polls.

A large demonstration started in Golha (Flowers) Square, near Shokoufeh Square, in southeast Tehran, and a separate protest began in Vali-e Asr Square on the intersection of Palestine Street at 3:00 p.m., lasting for some two hours.

Protestors chanted “long live freedom”, “the cry of every Iranian is freedom”, “we reject dictatorship”, “boycott the elections”, and “the regime will be overthrown”.

Opposition exiles train in 'non-violent conflict' tactics

Exiled Iranian opposition activists say they are studying and training in the techniques of "non-violent conflict", learning from the same US groups that contributed to the success of movements for change in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine.

While few Iranians in the US harbour expectations that the Iranian government is about to crumble, the exiled community sees the presidential election tomorrow as an important test of the fragmented opposition's ability to garner support in its campaign for the elections to be boycotted.