Guardian Council rules out nullifying election

Security forces patrol the streets of Tehran on Monday.
Iran’s Guardian Council has ruled out the possibility of nullifying the results of the country’s disputed presidential election, saying irregularities were reported before the balloting — not during or after.

The announcement, reported by Iran’s government-funded Press TV on Tuesday, was another in a series of inconsistent stances by the council on how to handle the unrest stemming from the disputed June 12 race. “If a major breach occurs in an election, the Guardian Council may annul the votes that come out of a particular affected ballot box, polling station, district or city, like how it was done in the parliamentary elections,” council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei was quoted as saying late Monday. “Fortunately, in the recent presidential election we found no witness of major fraud or breach in the election. Therefore, there is no possibility of an annulment taking place,” he added. Kadkhodaei said any irregularities that happened before the election were beyond the scope of the Guardian Council, which approves all candidates running for office in the country and verifies election results. He also disputed allegations that some polling places closed before all voters could cast ballots. Some precincts stayed open up to three-and-a-half hours past the official 10 p.m. deadline, he said.

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However, the Press TV report did not say how Kadkhodaei reconciled his assertion of late balloting with the fact that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the race two hours after the deadline. Iran’s interior ministry has said that 85 percent of the country’s 46 million eligible voters cast ballots. To many, such a large number of ballots could not have been hand-counted in such a short time. Ahmadinejad’s closest rival, Mir Hossein Moussavi, has rejected the election as fraudulent and has demanded a new one. Since then, tens of thousands of Iranians echoing the call have taken to the streets daily — sometimes engaging in violent clashes with police and Ahmadinejad backers. In the face of daily protests, the Guardian Council first said it would recount votes in some areas where the losing candidates alleged irregularities. Then, it said it would randomly recount 10 percent of the votes. Moussavi, however, said a recount would provide another opportunity for the government to manipulate the results. On Sunday, the council said the number of ballots cast in 50 cities exceeded the number of eligible voters. The extra votes amount to roughly 3 million ballots. However, the council said the voting in those locations did not noticeably affect the outcome of the election. Then, on Monday afternoon, an election official with the interior ministry said it would publish “box-by-box details” of the ballots, which were confidential in previous elections. The head of the ministry said its election headquarters would publish the results to resolve ambiguities about the election, the Iranian Labour News Agency reported.

Independent monitors did not oversee polling in Iran. The council had said Ahmadinejad won 62.63 percent of the vote. Moussavi received 33.75 percent, surprising many experts who expected him to win.