Many wait for Iranian election results

June 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
On Saturday in Iran, official results from the country's milestone presidential election were expected to be announced. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his lead challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, are both declaring victory. Turnout has been enormous at 75-percent and many see this election as being very important.

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Iranians headed to the polls in overwhelming numbers, and Iranians living overseas got a chance to cast their ballots as well. Turnout was so high at the polling place in Emeryville that the initial order of 800 ballots wasn't enough. Voting officials ordered 600 more mid-afternoon, but that wasn't enough either.

"The best option is to hop on a plane and go to L.A. and vote there, but by the time you get there the ballots are closed," said Walnut Creek resident Puyia Soltani.

Those who did have an opportunity to vote compare the significance of this election to the U.S. election in November. The youth-backed candidate, moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi, has lifted hopes in Iran for real change.

"He's the one making changes, just the same way Barack Obama made the changes here. So this is going to be a big one," said Iranian voter Mina Taheri.

But Iran's interior ministry says the hard-lining incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is heading for a landslide victory with nearly 80 percent of the votes counted.

"This is the result of an organized and engineered fraud," said Omid Memarian.

Memarian worked as a journalist in Iran and just graduated from U.C. Berkeley's journalism school. He's been perusing the web all day and bloggers are crying foul.

"Iran's electoral system is not that fast to be able to announce the results that fast. It's a big country, tons of different villages and small cities which are not computerized," said Memarian.

Regardless of the outcome, many believe change is coming. Rebecca Griffin of Oakland-based Peace Action just returned from Iran.

"This is going to shift politics in Iran, that just the amount of engagement, and the excitement, it's going to force the government to re-evaluate its policies and its positions," said Griffin.

The interior ministry banned all rallies until after the results are formally announced. The government and military are concerned about protests if Mousavi is declared the loser.

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