Ahmadinejad Wins Surprise Iran Landslide Victory

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by
The Guardian/UK

Ahmadinejad Wins Surprise Iran Landslide Victory

Challenger Mousavi claims fraud after record 84% turnout • Tense scenes in Tehran with riot police on streets

by
Ian Black in Tehran and agencies

An Iranian protests against presidential elections in Iran outside a polling booth set up for the local Iranian community in Los Angeles. Hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was heading for a thumping victory in Iran's fiercely-contested presidential race, official results showed, in a major upset for his moderate rival. (AFP/Mark Ralston)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has won a crushing victory in Iran's
landmark presidential election, according to the country's authorities,
but his moderate challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi has warned of "tyranny"
and protested that the result was rigged after a record turnout of 84%.

Mousavi
appealed directly to the regime's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, as baton-wielding riot police dispersed angry supporters
outside his Tehran headquarters today.

"I personally strongly
protest the many obvious violations and I'm warning I will not
surrender to this dangerous charade," said Mousavi. "The result of such
performance by some officials will jeopardise the pillars of the
Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny."

As news of the
official result sank in, the capital was quiet but tense. Riot police
gathered around key government buildings, and mobile phone text
messaging was blocked. International news websites – including the
Guardian and the BBC – as well as pro-Mousavi websites were blocked or
difficult to access.

"The election was a game and full of lies,"
shouted one protester. "We can not do anything here," said another. "We
can not believe the results and they are unacceptable."

Mousavi,
a former prime minister, had been widely expected to trounce the
controversial incumbent, or at least do well enough to trigger a
run-off. He claimed victory in an apparent attempt to pre-empt his
rival.

But as the votes were still being counted late on Friday,
aides to Ahmadinejad announced that he had won by an "unassailable"
margin after polling stations stayed open four extra hours to meet the
huge demand.

The interior ministry said this morning that
Ahmadinejad had won a crushing victory of 63.3% to 34.7% with most of
the votes counted, though the final official result was temporarily put
on hold.

Even in Mousavi's hometown province of Tabriz in
north-west Iran, the ministry claimed Ahmadinejad received more than
60% of the vote.

Early editions of Mousavi's paper Kalemeh Sabz,
or the Green Word, and other reformist dailies declared Mousavi the
victor but were ordered to change their headlines, local journalists
said. The papers had blank spots where articles were removed.

The
outcome seems a grave setback to hopes for a solution to the looming
international crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions and for détente with
the US in response to Barack Obama's overtures. Israel quickly demanded
efforts to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

"It doesn't augur
well for an early and peaceful settlement of the nuclear dispute," said
Mark Fitzpatrick at London's International Institute for Strategic
Studies.

If the result stands it will spell an end to hopes for
the greater freedoms and economic competence Mousavi had promised
Iran's 72 million people. At times the election campaign seemed like a
referendum on Ahmadinejad's four-year term.

The high turnout
underscored the stakes domestically. Mousavi's slick ­campaign
galvanised an apathetic electorate and raised hopes of a more stable
economy and increased liberty at home as well as better relations
abroad.

Supporters had hoped Mousavi could have a similarly
positive effect to Mohammad Khatami, who ushered in a period of change
that ended when Ahmadinejad came from nowhere to capture the presidency
four years ago.

Trita Parsi, the president of the
Washington-based National Iranian American Council, expressed disbelief
at the wide margin in Ahmadinejad's favour. "It is difficult to feel
comfortable that this occurred without any cheating," Parsi told
Reuters.

Ali Ansari, who heads the Institute for Iranian Studies
at St Andrews University in Scotland, warned: "The potential for unrest
is high."

As three weeks of often passionate campaigning drew to
a close on Wednesday, the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
(IRGC) issued an ominous warning that any attempt at a popular
"revolution" would be crushed.

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