Ahmadinejad Reelected in Iran as Demonstrators Protest Result

After a hotly contested election pitting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against leading challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, the government declared Ahmadinejad the winner on June 13. Mousavi's supporters took to the streets to protest the results, and were met with harsh security crackdowns.
By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 14, 2009

TEHRAN, June 13 -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared a "new beginning" for Iran late Saturday after he was declared victor in the presidential election, but as he spoke on national television violent demonstrations rolled through several areas of Tehran. Supporters of defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi burned dumpsters, threw stones and clashed with police in the worst rioting in Tehran in many years.

The Interior Ministry, controlled by Ahmadinejad, announced that he had been elected in the first round with 62.6 percent of the vote, compared with less than 34 percent for Mousavi, who was the leading challenger. Turnout was a record 86 percent of the 46.2 million eligible voters.

Announcement of the results triggered protests throughout the day. Families lined the streets in the middle-class neighborhood of Saadat Abad, cheering on the demonstration and shouting, "Death to the dictator!"

Ahmadinejad's reelection will pose fresh challenges to the United States. It has pressed Iran to halt a nuclear program that critics say could be used for weapons, but Iran says it is for civilian purposes. Ahmadinejad has also taken a sharply confrontational approach in foreign affairs.

Talks between Iran and the United States are still a possibility with Ahmadinejad at the helm. On several occasions, he has said he wants such talks. His oft-repeated verbal attacks on Israel are not expected to change.

After the results were announced, the Obama administration said it was examining the charges of election fraud. "We are monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Iran, but we, like the rest of the world, are waiting and watching to see what the Iranian people decide," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

The White House released a two-sentence statement praising "the vigorous debate and enthusiasm that this election generated, particularly among young Iranians," but it expressed concern about "reports of irregularities," the Associated Press reported.

In Tehran, Mousavi's whereabouts were unknown. Reporters on their way to a news conference by the former candidate were stopped by security personnel, who said the meeting had been canceled. Several journalists were beaten.

In his speech from the garden of the presidential palace, Ahmadinejad, who campaigned as a champion of the working class, lauded the high turnout in the voting, which he described as free and fair.

"There were two options," he said. "Either to return to the old days or continue our leap forward towards high peaks . . . and progress. Fortunately, the people voted for that last option." He said the Iranian people had chosen a program over a personality, and he promised to continue his policies "only with more energy." He also attacked foreign media coverage of the campaign, saying "they have launched the heaviest propaganda and psychological war against the Iranian nation."

Mousavi, who had said on Friday that he won, posted a statement on his Web site rejecting the vote tally as rigged.

"I'm warning that I won't surrender to this manipulation," he said. "The outcome of what we've seen from the performance of officials . . . is nothing but shaking the pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran's sacred system and governance of lies and dictatorship."

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