Friday, June 26, 2009

Iran's healthy election

Warning - The Surgeon General of Iran has determined that opposing the healthy election is dangerous to your health. From ABC:
A senior Iranian cleric called Friday for harsh punishment for leaders of the country's post-election protests, even as a G8 foreign ministers meeting in Italy urged Iran's rulers to seek a peaceful resolution to the tense two-week confrontation over the disputed presidential vote.

Iran's ruling clergy has widened its clampdown on the opposition, led by presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who says he is the rightful election winner. Hundreds have been detained since the June 12 vote, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was proclaimed the winner.

Of course, proper progressives will insist that martyr Nada Soltan was really a Zionist Mossad agent named Fiegeh Katenellenbogen.

June 27, 2009
Authorities Rule Iran Election 'Healthy'

TEHRAN — As Iran's leaders push back threats to their authority after the disputed presidential election, crushing street protests and pressing challengers to withdraw or to limit their objections, the country's main electoral oversight group ruled Friday that the ballot had been the "healthiest" since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
The statement by the 12-member Guardian Council, which is charged with overseeing and vetting elections, fell short of formal certification of the ballot. But it offered further evidence that, despite mass demonstrations and violent confrontation with those who call the election a fraud, the authorities are intent on enforcing their writ and denying their adversaries a voice.
Two weeks after the election on June 12, Mir Hussein Moussavi, the top challenger, issued an angry statement Thursday that underscored his commitment to press ahead — but also his impotence in the face of an increasingly emboldened and repressive government that restricted his ability to do much more than express outrage.
In remarks quoted on the official IRNA news agency, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, a spokesman for the Guardian Council, said the panel had "almost finished reviewing defeated candidates election complaints" which the council said earlier numbered in excess of 600.
"The reviews showed that the election was the healthiest since the revolution," Mr. Kadkhodaei said. "There were no major violations in the election."
According to the official results, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won an 11 million-vote margin of victory, securing almost two thirds of a record turn-out of 40 million voters. Initially, three losing candidates registered complaints of electoral irregularities, but one of them, Mohsen Rezai, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, withdrew his objections. Mr. Moussavi said Thursday he, too, had come under pressure to drop his complaint.
Mr. Moussavi does not have a political organization to rally, and during the height of the unrest he attracted a large following more because of whom he opposed — President Ahmadinejad — than because of what he stood for, political analysts said.
"I am willing to show how election criminals have stood by those behind the recent riots and shed people's blood," Mr. Moussavi said in a statement posted on his Web site on Thursday. "I will not back down even for a second because of personal threats and interests from defending the rights of the people."
With most protests suppressed or canceled, a few dozen people arrived Friday at the Behest-e Zahra cemetery to mourn Neda Agha-Soltan, a 26-year-old woman shot dead last Saturday whose image went round the world as an instant emblem of the protest.
According to Tehran, members of the government's Basij militia, ordered to prevent any gatherings, have beaten even small groups of passers-by so the mourners arrived in groups of two or three, muttered brief prayers and left, The Associated Press said, quoting unidentified witnesses.
International condemnation of the authorities' response to the post-election protests could also be muted since a meeting of the Group of Eight countries in Trieste, Italy, on Friday seemed divided on how strongly Tehran should be criticized. While many European countries have forcefully condemned Tehran's crackdown and President Obama has voiced increasingly stern criticism, Russia, which hosted Mr. Ahmadinejad immediately after the disputed election, has said isolating Iran would be a mistake, according to Italy's ANSA news agency.
The United States delegation at the meeting is headed by William Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has a fractured elbow and did not attend.
Perhaps the most important question now is whether the leadership can paper over the deep divisions that the election has widened within Iran's political elite, which present the most serious threat to the system in its 30-year history.
There were still signs of widespread public anger and resentment toward the leadership, but no organization to channel it, political analysts said.
The hard-line leadership appears to have intimidated some opposition figures into stepping back from the defiance and confrontation that have upended Iran over the past two weeks.
On Thursday, Mehdi Karroubi, another defeated presidential candidate, who had been more visible in recent days than Mr. Moussavi, said he did not consider Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory legitimate, but would pursue his complaints through the legal system.
But there were also signs of continued resistance. A few conservatives have expressed revulsion at the sight of unarmed protesters being beaten, even shot, by government forces. Only 105 out of the 290 members of Parliament took part in a victory celebration for Mr. Ahmadinejad on Tuesday, newspapers reported Thursday. The absence of so many lawmakers, including the speaker, Ali Larijani, a powerful conservative, was striking.
There was still no word from a former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a Moussavi supporter who is considered one of the nation's most effective political operatives and coalition builders. That held out the prospect of behind-the-scenes maneuvering that might challenge the status quo, political analysts said.
To avoid violent suppression of street protests, people are turning to other ways of expressing dissent. Echoing a symbol of defiance to the shah, the ritual of 10 p.m. rooftop shouts of "God is great" and new chants of "Death to the dictator" has been growing stronger by the day.
Some people have begun to identify and embarrass plainclothes agents by circulating photographs of those who infiltrated protests and beat demonstrators. And protesters pledged to release thousands of green and black balloons on Friday in memory of those killed in the clashes.
An expatriate Iranian political analyst, who asked not to be identified because he often visited Iran and feared retribution, said Mr. Moussavi's "only option will be to court behind the scenes and try to muster support in powerful circles, and use them as his proxies to fight for him, and of course they will fight, but not for Moussavi, but because of their disagreement or because they despise Ahmadinejad" and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.
Another analyst, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was still possible for the fractious elite to try to unite to avoid being pushed out of power altogether.
In another indication of the depth of divisions that remain, a senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, called for "national conciliation."
"Definitively, something must be done to ensure that there are no embers burning under the ashes, and that hostilities, antagonism and rivalries are transformed into amity and cooperation among all parties," he said in comments posted on the state-run Press TV Web site.
The government appeared to fall back on a familiar playbook: trying to rouse Iranians through populist appeals against outside interference and dark accusations of foreign conspiracy. Mr. Rezai's aides said the authorities did not even bother to conduct the limited recount they had agreed to. Mr. Ahmadinejad stepped out of the shadows to lash out at President Obama, who said Tuesday that he was "appalled and outraged" by the crackdown on protesters.
On Thursday, Mr. Ahmadinejad said: "We expected the British and European countries to make those kinds of comments. But we were not expecting Mr. Obama, who has talked about change, to fall in the same trap and follow the same path that Bush did."
He did not stop there. "I hope you avoid interfering in Iran's affairs and express your regret in a way that the Iranian people find out about it," he said.
Nazila Fathi reported from Tehran, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Michael Slackman and Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo, and Sharon Otterman from New York.

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