Hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a crushing victory in Iran’s hotly-disputed presidential vote, according to official results today that triggered mass opposition protests.
In Tehran, riot police fired tear gas as thousands of supporters of his defeated rival Mir Hossein Mousavi took to the streets shouting “Down with the Dictator” after final results showed Ahmadinejad winning almost 65 per cent of the vote.
Angry crowds first emerged near Mousavi's campaign office in central Tehran, where protestors, including women, were hit with sticks as riot police on motorbikes moved in to break up the gathering, an AFP correspondent said. “They have ruined the country and they want to ruin it more over the next four years,” shouted an irate mob outside Mousavi’s office.
The moderate ex-premier Mousavi cried foul over election irregularities and warned of the “dangerous scenario” the vote had created, as some of his protesting supporters were beaten by baton-wielding police, an AFP correspondent said.
The interior minister said Mousavi had won less than 34 per cent of the vote, giving Ahmadinejad another four-year term in a result that dashed Western hopes of change in the Islamic republic.
Iran’s election commission said Ahmadinejad had won 64.8 per cent of 38 million votes counted so far, with Mousavi on less than 34 per cent. Ahmadinejad’s lead was unassailable, based on an Interior Ministry estimate of more than 80 per cent turnout among the country’s 46 million eligible voters.
Mousavi listed several irregularities, alleging that many people had been unable to vote and ballot papers were lacking. Ahmadinejad on Friday ruled out fraud because representatives of candidates would witness the vote at 45,000 polling stations.
Mousavi, one of Ahmadinejad’s three rivals in the most heated election campaign since the Islamic revolution, had earlier declared himself the victor, setting the scene for a tense power struggle.
The international community has been keenly watching the election for any signs of a shift in policy after four years of hardline rhetoric from the 52-year-old Ahmadinejad and a standoff over Iran’s nuclear drive.