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2009-06-15

Latin America cautious over Iranian election results

Eduardo Herrera

The majority of governments in the region have refrained from commenting on the results of the Iranian presidential elections while independent sources confirm reports on the re-election of the ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been the only one to congratulate his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left) on his supposed victory in the 12 June elections. The two embrace during a visit by the Iranian leader to the South American country in September 2007.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been the only one to congratulate his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left) on his supposed victory in the 12 June elections. The two embrace during a visit by the Iranian leader to the South American country in September 2007.

LATIN AMERICA – The majority of governments in the region remain cautious regarding the results of the 12 June presidential elections in Iran while they await independent confirmation of the figures announced by the Iranian interior minister. According to the official figures, controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected with 62.6 percent of the vote, compared to 33.7 percent received by his opponent, the moderate reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Many observers expressed doubts at these results, noting that elections in Iran are not transparent (Iran did not allow international election monitors), nor truly pluralistic or democratic since all candidates are pre-selected by the country's Guardian Council composed of the Islamic Republic's top clerics.

The region’s gaze has also been directed at the police repression used by the theocratic regime against demonstrations by students and supporters of the reformist candidate Mousavi. In the days following the elections, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets of Tehran to voice their rejection of the results and denounce possible fraud.

In Latin America, EFE reported that only Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez congratulated Ahmadinejad on his “very significant victory” and described him as “a friend, a brother of Venezuela” and “a brave fighter in defence of the Islamic revolution”.

The region has taken on importance within the foreign policy of Ahmadinejad’s populist government, which has been aggressively seeking political and commercial allies on the continent. Some countries which maintain relations with Tehran, such as Bolivia and Ecuador, have remained cautious and made no statements regarding the elections.

Moreover, the BBC said that the new president is not expected to make substantial changes to his current system of governance or relations he holds with other countries. It is hard to imagine, speculated the BBC, that once either Ahmadinejad or Mousavi is elected, for example, that either one of them would have the authority to suspend the Iranian nuclear programme which has gained such prominence.

The U.S. government expressed its doubts over the election results. We are deeply troubled by the reports of violence, arrests and possible voting irregularities, said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.

According to ANSA, Vice-President Joe Biden said that “for now” Washington would respect the Iranian president’s re-election, but that they are “surprised by the claim that he won with 60 percent of the vote”. He added, “I think we will have to wait and see.

Not even the governments of China or Russia have commented on events in Iran. The European Union urged Iran to “clarify” the results, and, according to Europa Press, requested an investigation into the electoral process as well as expressed concern over repression in the capital. EU member countries such as Germany and France met with their respective Iranian ambassadors to express their concern over the harsh police action taken against reformists and protesters.

In Iran, Ahmadinejad’s main rival Mousavi presented a formal appeal for new elections to be held. In a press release published by Reuters he said, “I beg the Iranian people to continue with their demonstrations across the country in a peaceful and legal fashion.

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