Fraud charges mar final stage of Iran polls
By Jonathan Lyons
TEHRAN, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Iranian officials on Thursday delayed releasing
final poll results for Tehran amid allegations of vote-rigging in a tight
race for the last of the capital's 30 parliamentary seats.
Officials told Reuters they were investigating charges that 100 ballot
boxes were stuffed with fraudulent votes. Another 100 boxes had yet to
be counted out of a total of 3,111 across the city, they said.
``Some ballot boxes are being recounted. Protests have been made against
alleged vote-rigging...especially in the south of Tehran,'' one ministry
``The interior ministry is following up this case and...final results
will be released by tomorrow (Friday) night.''
With almost all votes counted, reformists backing President Mohammad
Khatami had a firm grip on the top 27 places and were leading in the race
for another two seats -- an improvement on an already strong showing in
But the fate of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the standard-bearer
for the conservative establishment and the only obstacle to a reformist
sweep of the capital, hung in the balance.
According to unofficial results, Rafsanjani was clinging to a place
in the top 30, but it was uncertain whether he would clear the 25-percent
threshold needed to enter parliament in the first round. A strong showing
in South Tehran could put him through.
Authorities, under mounting pressure to publish a final tally, had promised
final results by noon (0830 GMT) on Thursday. That deadline came and went
with no official comment.
However, the ministry assured voters their ballots would be protected.
``The officials in the interior ministry in coordination with Mr Khatami's
policies will not allow even one vote to be manipulated,'' Mohammad Qadimi-Zaker,
the ministry's director general of elections, told the afternoon daily
Complicating the count is the dual nature of authority for the polls,
divided between the reformist government's interior ministry and the conservative
clerics who dominate the Guardian Council.
Elections monitors say interior ministry supervisors have refused to
sign off on results from the disputed districts, despite approval of the
balloting by representatives of the Guardian Council.
Failure to resolve the dispute could force a new election, although
analysts said that was unlikely. A meeting was scheduled for later on Thursday
between the ministry and the Guardians.
Rival newspapers, meanwhile, fanned the flames of controversy.
``Some people are worried their votes may be tampered with,'' read a
front-page headline in the leftist Bayan.
But the conservative afternoon daily Kayhan said the delays were part
of a plot to deprive the former president of his rightful seat.
``Lots of efforts are being expended by a certain political current
to remove the name of Mr Hashemi Rafsanjani from the list of candidates
who have made it to parliament from Tehran,'' it said.
Authorities say they have focused their attention so far on South Tehran,
a traditionalist stronghold widely seen as the most favourable grounds
for Rafsanjani, a pragmatic cleric and veteran revolutionary.