It’s Saturday afternoon in Tehran, and the streets are generally quiet. But the aftermath of Iran’s rigged election, in which radical-right President Ahmadinejad and his paramilitary backers were kept in office, has left Iran’s capital steeped in anger, despair, and bitterness.
Last night, after the polls closed, heavily armed troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were in evidence in the streets. In one area of north Tehran, where backers of opposition challenger and reformist ex-Prime Minister Mousavi are concentrated, I saw a convoy of at least fifteen military vehicles filled with armed guards idling along the side of the road. The street in front of the Interior Ministry, where votes are counted, is blocked and heavily guarded after rumors that Mousavi supporters might gather there to protest the election count.
Mousavi himself has pledged to fight the verdict, using words like “tyranny” and adding, “I will not surrender to this dangerous charade.”
To get some perspective on the crisis, today I went to see Ibrahim Yazdi, a leading Iranian dissident and Iran’s foreign minister in the early days of Islamic republic. Here is the text of the interview:
What is your reaction to the results of the election?
Many of us believe that the election was rigged. Not only Mousavi. We don’t have any doubt. And as far as we are concerned, it is not legitimate.
There were many, many irregularities. They did not permit the candidates to supervise the election or the counting of the ballots at the polling places. The minister of the interior announced that he would oversee the final count in his office, at the ministry, with only two aides present.
In previous elections, they announced the results in each district, so people could follow up and make a judgment about the validity of the figures. In 2005, there were problems: in one district there were about 100,000 eligible voters, and they announced a total vote of 150,000. This time they didn’t even release information about each particular district.
In all, there were about 45,000 polling places. There were 14,000 mobile ones, that can move from place to place. Many of us protested that. Originally, these mobile polling places were supposed to be used in hospitals and so on. This time, they were used in police stations, army bases, and various military compounds. When it comes to the military compounds and so on, if even 500 extra votes were put into each of the 14,000 boxes, that is seven million votes.
Mousavi and Karroubi had earlier established a joint committee to protect the peoples’ votes. Many young people volunteered to work on that committee. But the authorities didn’t let it happen. Last night [that is, election night] the security forces closed down that committee. There is no way, independent of the government and the Guardian Council, to verify the results.
I’ve heard people say that President Ahmadinejad is gathering so much power that he might be able to use the Revolutionary Guard and his other allies to make a coup d’etat against the state.