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Iran's election result staggers analysts

world Updated: Jun 13, 2009 10:31 IST

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Hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took an unbeatable two-to-one lead over moderate challenger Mirhossein Mousavi in Iran's presidential election on Saturday, official results showed. Mousavi cried foul and claimed victory himself.

Here are some analysts' initial views on the outcome of Friday's election:

Karim Sadjapour, analyst at carnegie endowment for international peace:

"I don't think anyone anticipated this level of fraudulence. This was a selection, not an election. At least authoritarian regimes like Syria and Egypt have no democratic pretences. In retrospect it appears this entire campaign was a show: (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei wasn't ever going to let Ahmadinejad lose."

Elliott Abrams, former senior Bush administration official now with the council on foreign relations:

"Both the apparent victory and the apparent fraud greatly complicate the Obama strategy. My advice is that they had better be thinking about more sanctions. The one hope might be that if a new Ahmadinejad government is viewed as illegitimate by many Iranians, that government might be anxious to avoid further economic distress. In that context, sanctions that bite might be a powerful tool and might push the regime into a serious negotiation. But it is more likely that the engagement strategy has been dealt a very heavy blow.

"At this point one has to wonder about vote fraud. The two-to-one margin for Ahmadinejad may well appear to millions of Iranians as bizarre and unlikely, and meant to avoid a run-off he might lose. If that's what millions of voters think, especially young voters in this very young country (70 per cent of the population is under age 30), there could well be large demonstrations. And the legitimacy not only of an Ahmadinejad second term, but of the whole regime, would be in question in the eyes of many Iranians."

Trita Parsi, President of national Iranian American council:

"I'm in disbelief that this could be the case. It's one thing if Ahmadinejad had won the first round with 51 or 55 per cent. But this number ... just sounds tremendously strange in a way that doesn't add up ... It is difficult to feel comfortable that this occurred without any cheating.

"If there is a fight in Iran and there are accusations of fraud and Mousavi declares himself a winner and you have numerous leading clerics and other figures recognising Mousavi, you are going to have paralysis and significant infighting in Iran. That will complicate (US President Barack) Obama's engagement. It will be more difficult to deal with Ahmadinejad because he has been discredited at home. He may not be able to deal with anyone because there is paralysis in Iran. It will cause the Obama administration to lose very precious time. Obama is already trying to win time within Washington and from Washington's allies. There are already pressures from Congress, from pro-Israeli corners, from Israel itself, from some of the Persian Gulf Arab states, for a strict timeline for these efforts. Their patience for how long Obama can pursue this is strictly limited.

"For this year, the Democrats in Congress will give him the benefit of the doubt, but that means he needs to get things started. Already under normal circumstances, you wouldn't have the new President take power until August. He would need to get his cabinet approved by parliament. You are talking already early October before the Iranians are really ready to deal. That's under normal circumstances, which gives Obama very little time. The last thing he needs is indecisiveness in the election result that will cause things to be delayed even further."

Shibley Telhami, professor at the university of Maryland

"The most important element in this election is in domestic politics. People may interpret it as a rejection of international pressure, but I don't think that is correct."