Iran protests mount

2009-06-13 16:02

Tehran - Hard line incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a crushing victory in Iran's hotly-disputed presidential vote, according to official results on Saturday that triggered mass opposition protests.

Riot police were out in Tehran as thousands of supporters of his defeated rival Mir Hossein Mousavi took to the streets shouting "Down with the Dictator" after final results showed Ahmadinejad winning almost 63% of the vote.

The moderate ex-premier Mousavi cried foul over election irregularities and warned of the "dangerous scenario" the vote had created, as some of his protesting supporters were beaten by baton-wielding police, an AFP correspondent said.

The Interior Ministry said Mousavi had won less than 34% of the vote, giving Ahmadinejad another four-year term in a result that dashed Western hopes of change in the Islamic republic.

Mousavi, one of Ahmadinejad's three rivals in the most heated election campaign since the Islamic revolution, had earlier declared himself the victor, setting the scene for a tense power struggle.

Disbelief and frustration

The international community has been keenly watching the election for any signs of a shift in policy after four years of hard line rhetoric from the 52-year-old Ahmadinejad and a standoff over Iran's nuclear drive.

Mousavi said he "protested vigorously against the numerous and blatant irregularities" in the vote which officials said attracted a record turnout of around 85% of the 46.2 million electorate.

In the heart of Tehran, thousands of angry Mousavi supporters voiced their disbelief and frustration at the results, with some throwing stones at police, who struck back with batons.

Reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who came a distant fourth with less than one per cent of the vote after ex-Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai in third, also declared the result "illegitimate and unacceptable".

"They have ruined the country and they want to ruin it more over the next four years," shouted an irate mob outside Mousavi's office.

But Iran's all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hailed Ahmadinejad's victory as a "feast".

"The enemies may want to spoil the sweetness of this event... with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations," he said. "The president-elect is the president of the entire Iranian nation and... all should support and help him."

Earlier, Ahmadinejad's supporters had taken to the streets in triumph, honking their horns and waving Iranian flags.