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Iran’s Presidential Election Hotly Contested

June 12, 2009 at 6:05 PM EDT
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Christian Science Monitor reporter Scott Peterson provides an update on Iran's presidential election.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Ray Suarez has a further update on today’s
voting in Iran.

RAY SUAREZ: And, for that, we go to Scott Peterson, a
Christian Science Monitor Reporter in Tehran.
He joins us by telephone. And, Scott, what’s available? What hard tally is
available? It’s the middle of the night in Tehran. The polls have been closed for a
handful of hours.

SCOTT PETERSON, The Christian Science Monitor: Well, that’s
right. And we have already begun to get quite a substantial amount of the
results out. Remarkably, just in the last half-an-hour, it was announced that,
of the 47 percent of all votes cast, President Ahmadinejad had won 67 percent
of those, well over twice the number that his main rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi,
had won. He is ranking just over 30 percent at the moment, a very unexpected
result, certainly for Mousavi supporters, and the kind of things that could
well lead to violence in the coming days, depending on how irregularities are
examined and also how the final result actually plays itself out.

RAY SUAREZ: The polls were originally scheduled to close in
the early hours of the evening. They didn’t. What happened?

SCOTT PETERSON: Well, they were extended — they were
extended a couple of times, which is fairly common in the Islamic republic.
They have always drawn their legitimacy here from a large, large turnout. So,
they have always encouraged it. And even if not too many people have voted,
they have — they have extended — they have extended voting times in the past.
This time, there really were a lot of people voting, really a huge number, to
the point where, when they finally did close some of those polling stations,
they actually did so at the exclusion of some people who were already standing
out and around corners. So, this, of course, is another irregularity, the kind
of thing that we hadn’t seen in the past and the kind of thing that will be an
issue as Mousavi presses the — presses the result.

RAY SUAREZ: Hasn’t challenger Mousavi also claimed that he’s
ahead at this point?

SCOTT PETERSON: Well, he certainly has. And, in fact, he has
claimed to be ahead by just as much as Ahmadinejad is, according to the
electoral commission, at the moment. He said that he figured that he had a 65
– or people close to him say that they — that they estimate roughly a 65
percent final — final result for the entire country. And I think that what we
have seen tonight — now it’s already after 2:30 in the morning here in Tehran — we are seeing
already on the streets just in the last half-an-hour some of that violent
reaction. I was just standing in front of the headquarters of the — of
Mousavi’s campaign here. There were several hundred people. They were chanting
slogans, saying things like, if the rigging of Iran
is proven, then there will be a real judgment day in Iran. But they were broken up by
police using tear gas and using batons, small groups chasing after people. And,
of course, this is the kind of thing that, if it gets on — on to a much larger
scale, could really cause problems for the regime here.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, how votes are counted differs from country
to country. Do we know yet whether this partial vote, two-thirds of the result
in, about half the result in or so, has come from a particular part of the
country or cities, rather than rural areas? Any breakdown?

SCOTT PETERSON: Well, what seems to be remarkable, I mean,
the initial — the initial results that came in which showed these
extraordinarily high amounts had come from particularly rural areas, probably
places where voting had finished quite early in the day, where you didn’t have
a huge surplus of people lining up until the — until after the end of polling.
And those are the areas — those are some of the areas that really have
benefited most from the Ahmadinejad presidency. They’re ones that,
ideologically, are much more in tune with the president’s arch-conservative
views. And, also, they are places that have benefited from the president’s 60
trips that he has made out to the provinces, you know, shelling out money,
shelling out projects, and basically being on a four-year campaign tour. So,
those were the places we were expecting, and those are the ones that were
counted first.

RAY SUAREZ: Scott Peterson from The Christian Science
Monitor, thanks for joining us.

SCOTT PETERSON: Thank you.