By Mark Memmott
As the week begins, Iran and its disputed presidential election remain at the top of the news.
Late Sunday, a spokesman for the country's Guardian Council said that in 50 cities more votes were cast than there are eligible voters -- a remarkable statement about an election that challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi says was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But, council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei claimed that nothing unusual had happened. According to the state-run Press TV:
Kadkhodaei further explained that the voter turnout of above 100% in some cities is a normal phenomenon because there is no legal limitation for people to vote for the presidential elections in another city or province to which people often travel or commute.
The government says it knows of about 3 million such votes that were cast in those 50 cities. According to official figures, Ahmadinejad won the election by about 11 million votes.
There is independent reporting on the election's credibility. Chatham House, a U.K.-based organization, reported over the weekend that "in two conservative provinces ... a turnout of more than 100% was recorded." The researchers write that:
In a country where allegations of 'tombstone voting' -- the practice of using the identity documents of the deceased to cast additional ballots -- are both longstanding and widespread, this result is troubling but perhaps not unexpected.
This problem did not start with Ahmadinejad; according to official statistics gathered by the International institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm, there were 12.9% more registered voters at the time of Mohammed Khatami's 2001 victory than there were citizens of voting age.
In conclusion, a number of aspects of the reported turnout figures are problematic. The massive increases from 2005, the collapse of regional variations, and the absence of any clear correlation between increases in turnout and increased support for any candidate on their own make the results problematic.
Staying with the news from Iran, a video that appears to show the death of a young woman shot during one of the protests in Tehran has some calling her a "Joan of Arc." Her name is said to be Neda, and a YouTube search on her name or Twitter searches of #Neda and #Joanofarc will take you to many copies of the video. Warning: It is graphic.
Time magazine's Robin Wright says Neda's death "may have many consequences" because she is now seen as a martyr.
Also today, NPR's Jacki Lyden reported on Morning Edition about the arrest of relatives of former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani, including his daughter Faezeh:
And NPR's Mike Shuster reported about the Iranian opposition's likely next move:
Meanwhile, the Associated Press leads its latest story from Iran with this:
Iran's Revolutionary Guard is threatening to crush any further opposition protests over the disputed presidential election and warns demonstrators to prepare for a "revolutionary confrontation" if they take to the streets again.
As for other news and stories to watch for, they include:
-- The New York Times: "U.S. Toughens Airstrike Policy In Afghanistan."
-- The Wall Street Journal: "Numbers On Welfare See Sharp Increase."
-- CBS News: "North Korea Threatens To Hit U.S. If Provoked."
-- Supreme Court: It releases its latest opinions at 10 a.m. ET.
categories: Foreign News