Following the announcement that president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won Iran’s presidential poll, thousands of angry protesters have clashed with police. (photo, from nytimes.com)
Secret police have been attacked and riot police used batons and tear gas against backers of Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister and one of Ahmadinejad’s principal opponent in the poll.
Mousavi called the results a “charade”.
The violence is the worst seen in Tehran in a decade, said correspondents.
During a televised address to the nation, Ahmadinejad thanked voters for giving him a “great victory”. The official results gave him 63% of the vote, against just 34% for Mousavi.
The people of Iran want justice, development, an end to corruption and for their country’s name to be respected, said Ahmadinejad.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, praised the high turnout of 85%, described the count as a “real celebration” and called for calm.
“Enemies may want to spoil the sweetness of this event… with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations,” said the ayatollah.
But victory has also been claimed by Mousavi. His supporters said the election had been stolen and vowed to seek a re-run. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
Yet, observers say this would have little chance of success.
Mousavi hoped to prevent Ahmadinejad winning more than 50% of the vote, in order to force a run-off election.
Some of the protesters in Tehran wore green, the colour of Mousavi’s campaign, and chanted “Down with the dictator”, news agencies report.
Near the interior ministry, where votes had been counted, four police motorbikes were set on fire, said the BBC’s John Simpson in Tehran.
Any demonstrations needed official permission, warned interior minister Sadeq Mahsouli, adding that none had been given.
An opposition newspaper has been closed down and BBC websites also appear to have been blocked by the Iranian authorities. The AP news agency reports that mobile phone services have been blocked in Tehran.
According to Ahmadinejad, during the election, the world, especially the Western media, had waged a campaign of “psychological warfare” against the people of Iran.
“It was clear what the majority of people wanted,” he said.
Although he said the election had been free, he didn’t give details about the complaints of rigging, or mention the violence.
Earlier, Mousavi dismissed the election result as deeply flawed.
“I personally strongly protest the many obvious violations and I’m warning I will not surrender to this dangerous charade,” the Reuters news agency reported him as saying.
“The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardise the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny.”
According to Mousavi, millions of people have been denied the right to vote because of a shortage of ballot papers. He also said that his election monitors were not allowed enough access to polling stations.
Many Iranians greeted the results with surprise and deep scepticism, said BBC’s Jon Leyne in Tehran.
If the figures are to be believed, they show Ahmadinejad winning strongly even in the heartland of Mr Mousavi.
Leyne adds that the scale of Mr Ahmadinejad’s win means that many people who voted for a reformist candidate in the previous presidential election four years ago have apparently switched their votes to Mr Ahmadinejad.
Yet, Ahmadinejad does have the support of many of the urban poor and rural dwellers.
“I am happy that my candidate has won, he helps the poor and he catches the thieves,” sandwich seller Kamra Mohammadi, 22, told the AFP news agency.
Much of Mousavi’s support comes from the middle classes and the educated urban population.
Surge of interest
The result means that hope for peaceful reform in Iran may die for a long time, said BBC Iranian affairs analyst Sadeq Saba.
Iran’s presidential election brought a surge of interest, with unprecedented live television debates between the candidates and rallies attended by thousands.
With turnout reaching 85%, there were long queues at polling stations.
Though there were four candidates who contested the election, Mohsen Razai and Mehdi Karroubi only registering about 1% of the vote each.
Iran is ruled under a system known as Velayat-e Faqih, or “Rule by the Supreme Jurist”, who is currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
It was adopted in 1979, by an overwhelming majority, after the Islamic revolution which overthrew the autocratic Western-backed Shah.
However, the country holds phased presidential and parliamentary elections every four years, because the constitution stipulates that the people are the source of power.
The powerful conservative-controlled Guardian Council vetted all candidates and can also veto legislation it deems inconsistent with revolutionary principles.