Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate challenging Iran’s authorities on the result of last week’s presidential elections, is a masterful tactician who wants to overturn the re-election of his rival, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, with allegations of a massive conspiracy that he claims cheated him and millions of his supporters.
These supporters, identifiable by the color green they have adopted, have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands and on Thursday were to stage a “day of mourning” for what they say is a lost election. This follows a “silent” march through the streets of the capital on Wednesday. To date, at least 10 people — some Iranian sources say 32 — have been killed in clashes.
Mousavi has lodged an official complaint with the powerful 12-member Guardians Council, which has ordered a partial recount of the vote. The complaint’s main flaw is that it passes improper or questionable pre-election conduct as something else, that is, as evidence of voting fraud.
The protest, which seeks fresh elections, is short on specifics and long on extraneous, election-unrelated complaints. The first two items relate to the televised debates that were held between the candidates, rather than anything germane to the vote count.
There is also some innuendo, such as a claim that Ahmadinejad used state-owned means of transportation to campaign around the country, overlooking that there is nothing unusual about incumbent leaders using the resources at their disposal for election purposes. All previous presidents, including the reformist Mohammad Khatami, who is a main supporter of Mousavi, did the same.
Another complaint by Mousavi is that Ahmadinejad had disproportionate access to the state-controlled media. This has indeed been a bad habit in the 30-year history of the Islamic Republic, but perhaps less so this year because for the first time there were television debates, six of them, which allowed Mousavi and the other challengers free space to present their points of view.
With respect to alleged specific irregularities, the complaint cites a shortage of election forms that in some places caused a “few hours delay”. This is something to complain about, but it hardly amounts to fraud, especially as voter turnout was a record high of 85% of the eligible 46 million voters. (Ahmadinejad was credited with 64% of the vote.)
Mousavi complains that in some areas the votes cast were higher than the number of registered voters. But he fails to add that some of those areas, such as Yazd, were places where he received more votes that Ahmadinejad.
Furthermore, Mousavi complains that some of his monitors were not accredited by the Interior Ministry and therefore he was unable to independently monitor the elections. However, several thousand monitors representing the various candidates were accredited and that included hundreds of Mousavi’s eyes and ears.
They should have documented any irregularities that, per the guidelines, should have been appended to his complaint. Nothing is appended to Mousavi’s two-page complaint, however. He does allude to some 80 letters that he had previously sent to the Interior Ministry, without either appending those letters or restating their content.
Finally, item eight of the complaint cites Ahmadinejad’s recourse to the support given by various members of Iran’s armed forces, as well as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s brief campaigning on Ahmadinejad’s behalf. These are legitimate complaints that necessitate serious scrutiny since by law such state individuals are forbidden to take sides. It should be noted that Mousavi can be accused of the same irregularity as his headquarters had a division devoted to the armed forces.
Given the thin evidence presented by Mousavi, there can be little chance of an annulment of the result.
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy. His latest book, Reading in Iran Foreign Policy after September 11 is now available. This article was first published in Asia Times 19 June 2009; it is reproduced here for educational purposes.