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The Recount Proposal

16 Jun 2009 13:13No Comments

Mousavi's Camp Gives Cold Shoulder to Recount Proposal

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A hard-liner hardliner: Ayatollah Jannati (center) heads the Guardian Council.

By HAMED YADEGARI in Boston | 16 June 2009

[TEHRAN BUREAU] On Monday, June 15, in what may have appeared as a slight softening of his initial enthusiastic response to the official results of the presidential election, Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, called for a "careful" evaluation of complaints submitted by reformist challenger Mir Hussein Mousavi to the Guardian Council. Subsequently, on Tuesday, the Speaker of the Council, after meeting with representatives of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's opponents, announced the Council's readiness to conduct a recount of votes from any and all disputed voting districts.

Had this offer been extended immediately after the controversially swift declaration of Ahmadinejad as the winner of a landslide victory, it could have done much to quell the wave of protests rising against the government. Now, however, it is too little too late. Too late because Ayatollah Khamanei, in a legally ambiguous move, chose to validate Ahmadinejad's reported victory before the other candidates had a chance to submit their complaints, allegedly refusing to even grant them an audience. As his word supersedes all decisions made by the Guardian Council, reformists are unlikely to accept the credibility of an investigation led by the Council.

The offer is too little because a recount does not address the major grievances of the opposition. These include complaints against Ahamdinejad's conduct prior and after the election, allegations of massive vote-rigging impacting more than 10 million votes, and the contention that the Interior Ministry may have even engineered its numbers to fit a pre-planned agenda.

The proposed recount could do little more than buy the government valuable time, unless Mousavi chooses to grant it legitimacy. And that does not seem to be Mousavi's plan. Shortly after his first meeting with Khamenei since the election, Mousavi attended a massive rally held by his supporters in Tehran. Speaking through a hand-held megaphone, he chose to question the good will of the Guardian Council before any proposal had been offered. "I have written a letter to the Guardian Council and described the various irregularities," he announced, "even though I have no hope in the Council. Many of its [twelve] members did not preserve their neutrality during the election process and openly supported the incumbent candidate." Mousavi's proposed solution is not a recount, but a cancellation of the results and a new election altogether.

Meeting with the Council's representative, Ali Akbar Mohtashemipour, head of Mousavi's Committee to Safeguard the Votes (a proposed body which the Guardian Council refused to legitimize prior to the election), opened by leveling his complaints against the Council itself. "Despite their moral and legal obligations," he condemned, "some members of the of Council spoke on behalf of Ahamdinejad's campaign, and some of them even made campaign trips on his behalf. Does such a Council even possess the required legitimacy to conduct an election?"

For his part, Mohtashamipour proposed the formation of what he labeled a Truth-finding Committee to investigate electoral irregularities and allegations. The Committee, he insisted, would consist of three representatives of Grand Ayatollahs (maraje' taqlid), four persons representing the candidates, one employee of the Interior Ministry who has proven his neutrality during the election, one member of the Guardian Council with similar conditions accompanied by a university law professor and an unbiased judge as recommended by the Bar Association, the Attorney General, the Head of the Judicial Branch, and the Head of Iran's General Inspection Organization. As none of the Grand Ayatollahs have supported Ahmadinejad in the election, the arrangement would severely limit the authority of both the Council and the Interior Ministry.

In a later interview, Mohtashamipour was asked what the Mousavi campaign would do if the Guardian Council confirmed Ahmadinejad as president. "I don't imagine that the Guardian Council would dare stand up to the will of the people," he responded. "Imam Khomeini once told the Guardian Council 'I fear the day when you are surrounded by an [elite] group, while the youth and our people scream slogans against you to reclaim their rights.' This was Imam Khomeini's warning to the Council, and I hope that they keep it in mind."

He stated that the Mousavi camp considered the Truth-Finding Committee to be the only viable option. He continued: "Two clear recommendations have been offered by two candidates, with Mr. Karroubi demanding the election be made void, and Mr. Mousavi recommending the formation of a Truth-Finding Committee, which will eventually lead to the same thing. But this Committee is a logical and intelligent way that will be understandable to all."

Mousavi's refusal to submit to a recount, refusing to acknowledge the authority and legitimacy of the Guardian Council, is a serious challenge to the powerful faction of the establishment led by Khamenei. To Mousavi's furious supporters, the decision also underlines Mousavi's commitment to not fold under pressure. The possibility of being abandoned by their candidate and leader has been a constant fear of the protesters. Some experienced such crushing disappointment when Khatami caved in to pressure from Khamanei in 1999 and refused to support the embattled students demonstrating at Tehran University.

The disillusionment marked the start of the decline of the reformist movement that eventually gave way to an Ahmadinejad victory in 2005. It was of symbolic value when Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, chose Tehran University as the site of her first public appearance since the election. She spoke on behalf of her husband, who had also not been seen in public since state media announced Ahmadinejad's victory.

After her speech, the question put to Rahnavard was whether her husband was ready to persevere along and ahead of his supporters. Speaking in an iron tone, she reassured the students that Mousavi was a man who had suffered imprisonment and torture under the previous regime -- he, therefore, would not be daunted by pressure and was ready to "pay any price to restore to the Iranian people their violated right."

The reformist leadership's combatant mood not waning, it remains to be seen if any proposal short of voiding the June 12 election could provide a way forward for both sides.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau
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