TOPICS > Politics

High Voter Turnout in Close Iranian Presidential Election

June 12, 2009 at 6:00 PM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Voting hours were extended in Iran
today, as long lines formed outside polling stations. There were predictions of
close to 80 percent turnout in the closely-fought presidential election. And
both President Ahmadinejad and his main challenger were each already claiming
victory. Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News begins our lead story

LINDSEY HILSUM: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah
Khamenei, whatever happens, he holds the most power in the country. But he says
it’s the people’s religious duty to vote as they see fit. He posted his slip in
ballot box number one. He’s clearly well-aware of what’s been happening out on
the streets.

AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI, supreme leader, Iran (through
translator): I want to thank the people for their passion and enthusiasm. In
the last few days, they went out onto the streets shouting slogans for their
candidates. They behaved wisely and didn’t allow anything bad to happen.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was also
up early to vote, his supporters all around him. He faces three challengers and
has to get 50 percent of the poll to avoid a run-off.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, president, Iran (through translator): I
cordially thank the great Iranian people for all their goodness, magnanimity
and sacrifices.

LINDSEY HILSUM: In this mosque in a conservative part of Tehran, the turnout was high, as it seems to have been all
over Iran.
Although there are four candidates, the election has turned into a fierce fight
between two, the president and a former prime minister, the reformist Mir
Hossein Mousavi. Mr. Mousavi went to the polls with his wife, who’s played a
major role in his campaign. He’s said he fears that the organs of the state,
including the Revolutionary Guard, may rig the vote in favor of President

MIR HOSSEIN MOUSAVI, Iranian Reformist Presidential
Candidate (through translator): The important point is that I have promised the
people to secure their votes. My campaign team and I will remain awake until
end of voting, and we demand that the election executives keep the votes safe.

LINDSEY HILSUM: In the Husseini Mosque in central Tehran, Iran’s
foreign minister wasn’t about to tell me his intentions.

MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI, foreign minister, Iran: Vote is a personal choice,
and that’s why I will vote to whom I like to.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Reformists in the voting queue were more

MASSOUMEH EBTEKAR, former vice president, Iran: Well, I
think that what happened during the past 20 days is an awakening for the
Iranian society, and there’s no turning back on that point, the awakening for
the young people. The young people expressed their views, and it’s quite
evident what they want, what they expect. The majority — it’s quite evident
where the majority stand today.

EBRAHIM YAZDI, reformist: If the process of election goes
well in a normal way, even if Ahmadinejad is elected, it’s one thing. But I’m
afraid that they will intervene, they will change the ballots and so on and so
on. So, and I’m afraid that there will be a severe violent reaction from the

LINDSEY HILSUM: As polls drew to a close, representatives of
both main candidates were claiming their man was ahead.