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IRAN: Reformist Candidates Complain of Too Many Ballots

Omid Memarian

SAN FRANCISCO, U.S., Jun 9 2009 (IPS) - Fears that the state apparatus controlled by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is laying the groundwork for possible fraud in Friday’s presidential election appear to be growing among his two reformist challengers and their supporters.

A child waves a poster of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate who is President Ahmadinejad's strongest challenger. Credit: Leila Partia, Tehran

A child waves a poster of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate who is President Ahmadinejad's strongest challenger. Credit: Leila Partia, Tehran

While an incumbent has never lost a re-election bid since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979, many analysts believe Ahmadinejad will at least be forced into a run-off with his closest rival, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is supported by Ahmadinejad’s popular predecessor, former President Mohammad Khatami.

The poll is being closely watched around the world, since the results could have a major impact on Iran’s relations both with its neighbours and the West, where Ahmadinejad’s more provocative statements, notably his repeated questioning of the Nazi Holocaust, have made him an easy target for rallying public opinion against Iran.

On Sunday, a group of employees in the Interior Ministry, which oversees the polls, and top officials from the campaigns of the two reformist candidates, Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, sent a letter to Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, chair of the country’s powerful Guardian Council, citing discrepancies in the run-up to the election.

According to the letter, the actual number of ballots printed for the first round of voting is 59.6 million, but the Interior Ministry officially says the number is 56 million.

Ali Akbar Mohtashami Pour and Morteza Alviri, of the Mousavi and Karroubi campaigns’ committees on poll supervision, also said that the number of electoral stamps circulating is “twice the number of polling sites plus 10 percent”.

“The stamps have been dispatched without any written procedures and this is a most dangerous and worrisome event,” they said in the letter.

“If organised fraud is to take place, this will not happen at polling branches, nor on site, and not at the ballot casting or counting, but through use of extra ballots and stamps and through use of additional boxes and mobile ballot boxes, especially as we have been informed that soldiers’ birth certificates have been collected at military bases,” it said.

Saeed Razavi Faghih, a spokesperson for the Karroubi campaign, told IPS, “Inviting the [pro-Ahmadinejad] Revolutionary Guard Corps to supervise ballot box security instead of the police has raised serious doubts for us.”

The reformist campaigns also charge that a contract has been signed between the Ministry of Information and Ministry of Telecommunications to send out four million confidential text messages on Friday.

“What top-secret orders are to be issued on Election Day and to whom? Why can’t people know about this [contract]?” the letter asks.

It also refers to a recent closed-door meeting at the Interior Ministry allegedly attended by provincial governors from all over the country, at which the agenda is unknown.

The latest informal polling has suggested a major surge by Mousavi, an architect by profession, which could carry him to victory. One recent government-funded poll cited by Newsweek Monday suggested that Mousavi could win in a landslide if, as expected, a run-off is held Jun. 19.

“The regime can clearly see the excitement and joy people are displaying on the streets of Tehran for the reformist candidates. If a different result is announced, it will be disastrous,” Mahmoud Shamsolvaezin, a political analyst in the capital, told IPS by telephone.

“I believe that the Mousavi posters in the hands of young people will be replaced with stones if results against the people’s will are announced,” he added.

Shamsolvaezin predicted “a probability of some vote manipulation to the tune of two to three million.”

But, he added, “I believe the silent majority’s participation in the elections will overpower these efforts and the end result will be in favour of reformists.”

The letter also complains that Mousavi’s campaign representatives have been barred from attending polling places set up for expatriates outside Iran.

“Over 300 ballot boxes have been planned for polling posts abroad, [but] Mir Hussein Mousavi’s campaign headquarters has been unable to introduce its representatives to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs despite earnest and longstanding efforts,” it said, adding that this was “a clear violation of the law”.

For the first time since the Islamic Revolution, the security of one third of the ballots has been removed from the police and assigned to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to Iran’s constitution, the military is supposed to be banned from involvement in politics.

The Revolutionary Gurad, which strongly supports Ahmadinejad, has mobilised thousands of people to show up at Tehran’s Mossalla center to participate in a rally organised by the president’s campaign office.

Earlier this week, supporters of Mousavi turned up in the thousands, all wearing the candidate’s chosen colour, and created a “green chain” that blocked traffic from north to south through the streets of Tehran.

Many people say the atmosphere in the last days before the election is very similar to Iran’s 1997 elections when Mohammad Khatami, a reformist candidate, beat a conservative candidate, Nateghe Noori, by 20 million votes to 7 million.

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