Iran's Top Electoral Body Says Election Valid

Iran's Guardian Council, the body that is dominated by clerics and oversees elections, has announced the disputed presidential election will not be annulled. At the same time, Iran's Revolutionary Guard says it will crush any street demonstrations called to protest the election. On Monday, a few hundred people tried to mount a protest but police quickly dispersed them.

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In Iran, the prospects of an official recount in the presidential election seem to be fading. Iran's Guardian Council - that's the body that oversees election - has announced that the results will stand. That decision comes even as the main challenger in this election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, continues to call for a new election. In a moment we're going to hear about European criticism of the Iranian leadership. But first we turn to NPR's Mike Shuster. He was in Iran for the election. He's now monitoring the events in nearby Dubai.

MIKE SHUSTER: The Guardian Council appears to have come to a final conclusion before it finishes the review of the voting that it pledged to carry out, perhaps not a surprising development after Iran's supreme leader told the nation the election was legitimate and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the winner. Nevertheless, a few days ago the Council said it would carry out a recount of 10 percent of the votes cast. A random sampling to probe whether there were significant irregularities. Yesterday, the Council's spokesman conceded there were irregularities in 50 jurisdictions involving up to three million votes.

Today, even though the work of the Council does not appear to have been completed, the Council's spokesman said that there would be no annulling of the election. The news was announced in headlines transmitted on Press TV, Iran's 24-hour English-language satellite channel, which reported that the Guardian Council found no major fraud in the balloting.

(Soundbite of Press TV broadcast)

Unidentified Man: Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei says most of the complaints are about irregularities before the election, not during or after the vote.

SHUSTER: Still, the announcements this week coming out of the Council have been anything but clear. The Council's spokesman, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, has issued a number of contradictory statements that have only deepened the confusion. Yesterday, despite the apparent discovery of widespread irregularities, Kadkhodaei tried to play down their significance.

Mr. ABBAS-ALI KADKHODAEI (Spokesman, Guardian Council): (Foreign language spoken)

SHUSTER: Some of the candidates claimed irregularities, which we are investigating, he said. Although our preliminary investigations show that no major violations have taken place, he added maybe it is best to say that no violations have taken place. The process the Guardian Council is using to carry out its review has been anything but transparent. Whatever recount is taking place has been behind closed doors and it is not clear that representatives of Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the other candidate who favors annulling the election, have been present. The Council's final rulings are expected tomorrow.

In the meantime, the details of the vote counting that have been released have prompted some significant questions by analysts outside of Iran. One preliminary study carried out by the Institute of Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found that in a third of Iran's provinces if the vote tallies for Ahmadinejad are accurate, he would have had to win all former conservative voters, all former centrist voters, all new voters, and up to 44 percent of former reformist voters - a highly unlikely outcome, the authors of the study argue. Conclusions like that are likely to fuel the commitment of the protestors to continue challenging the election results in the streets, but that is becoming more and more difficult to do.

(Soundbite of demonstrators)

SHUSTER: Yesterday, only a few hundred people attempted to gather at a square in Central Tehran. There they faced an overwhelming force of riot police, who acted to prevent even small knots of people from gathering and used plenty of tear gas to disperse the rest.

(Soundbite of demonstrators)

SHUSTER: The police made good on their promise to crush all protest. Now it seems as long as the police deploy their forces early in the day and in large numbers, it may be impossible for the moment for protestors to bring out into the streets anything like the numbers they drew last week. Iran's government also continued to put pressure on international news organizations. Most foreign correspondents have been forced to leave Iran and those still there and working in permanent bureaus in Tehran are severely restricted. They've been told they are prohibited from covering what the government considers unauthorized protest.

Iran's government has worked hard to cut off the flow of information through news organizations. Now ordinary Iranian citizens have become the chief source of information about their own actions. They have flooded the Internet with pictures and videos that they themselves have taken of the action in the streets.

Mike Shuster, NPR News, Dubai.

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