Hard-Line Tehran Mayor Wins Iranian Presidency
Saturday, June 25, 2005
TEHRAN, June 25 -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran who has invoked Iran's 1979 revolution and expressed doubts about rapprochement with the United States, won a runoff election Friday and was elected president of the Islamic republic in a landslide, the Interior Ministry announced early Saturday.
Ahmadinejad defeated Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former two-term president who had won the first round of voting last week and was attempting to appeal to socially moderate and reform-minded voters.
Ahmadinejad's election stands to complicate Iran's gradual engagement with the West, including difficult negotiations over the country's nuclear program. The apparent victory completes the domination of Iran's elective offices by the religious fundamentalists who have long held ultimate authority in the theocracy.
"Today is the beginning of a new political era," Ahmadinejad said as he cast his ballot in a working-class neighborhood of Tehran, the capital, where he has been mayor for two years.
In an allusion to occasions when he joined street sweepers in a show of populism, a hallmark of his presidential bid, he added: "I am proud of being the Iranian nation's little servant and street sweeper."
With 85 percent of votes counted, a spokesman for the Guardian Council, which oversees Iran's electoral process, said returns showed Ahmadinejad leading with 61.8 percent of the vote, to 35.7 for Rafsanjani. Officials said 47 percent of eligible voters turned out, down from 63 percent in the first round.
The Guardian Council is the most activist of three panels of self-appointed, mostly hard-line clerics whose authority outstrips that of any elected official in Iran. Last year, the Guardian Council used its power to bar all reformers from running for parliament.
Rafsanjani, 70, a senior statesman, Shiite cleric and business tycoon, carried the banner of the reformist movement whose leader, President Mohammad Khatami, must leave office after two consecutive terms.
Khatami's eight-year struggle against Iran's clerical hard-liners transformed the nation's political landscape but failed to produce structural change.
"The people actually did test the reformists during the last eight years, but they didn't see much from them," said Rohollah Samimi, 23, as he prepared to vote for Ahmadinejad. "So people here decided to return to the people who are promoting revolutionary values and see if they can bring about change."
[In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman, Joanne Moore, told the Associated Press that the result would not change the U.S. view of Iran.
[ "With the conclusion of the elections in Iran, we have seen nothing that sways us from our view that Iran is out of step with the rest of the region in the currents of freedom and liberty that have been so apparent in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon," Moore said.]