Focus: Iranian presidential election 2009
What next for Iran?
Will a possible recount of the vote satisfy anti-government protesters?
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2009 15:35 GMT

Opposition supporters defied a ban to rally in Tehran in protest at Ahmadinejad's election win [AFP]

In the wake of a massive street protest by opposition supporters, and the deaths of at least seven people, Iran's top legislative body has said it will carry out a recount of the vote in the county's disputed election, if it finds irregularities.

But will the Guardian Council's announcement make a difference?

Mehrdad Khonsari, a former Iranian diplomat, told Al Jazeera that although the Council's announcement is significant, it may not be enough to satisfy the opposition or even the Iranian people as a whole.

"What the opposition wants is not just a recount, but a recourse to the registration forms, to the actual documentation in each of the constituencies that voted, which is a far more arduous task," Khonsari said.

"There is no doubt that if there is a recount the decision will not be significantly altered.

"What they [the opposition] are alleging is that there has been rigging. [They are not interested in] how many votes there are, but how some of those votes got to be where they are.

"That is not the offer that has been made by the Guardian Council."

'Fractured' republic

Khonsari said that while the objective of most of the demonstrators was to get rid of Ahmadinejad, they could step up their demands if the government appeared to retreat over the election. 

In depth

 Video: One dead at Iran rally
 Video: Iranians rally in Europe
 Video: Poll result triggers protests in Tehran
Iran curbs media after poll result
 Mousavi sees election hopes dashed
 Iran writer on poll result
 Mousavi's letter to the people
 Iran poll result 'harms US hopes'
 West concerned by Iran fraud claims
 The Iranian political system
 Inside Story: Iran's political future

"This is a scenario that we have seen taking place in other countries over and over again," Khonsari said.

"While the issue at the moment isn't to question the validity of the Islamic Republic, there is no question that it has been seriously fractured.

"If it gives way on this particular issue then the people might become emboldened to demand greater freedoms, more open democracy and fewer restrictions imposed by a theocratic state.

"This dispute is taking place within the ruling constituency. All the disturbances we are seeing prove that it is fractured.

"In my opinion the number [of people] who want to see greater freedoms far exceeds those who just want to see Mr Mousavi take power," Khonsari said.

However, Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the UK's Independent newspaper, does not see the protest as a sign that the Iranian people are unhappy with their existing regime, but rather that they want to see the legitimate person in power.

"Some international [news] stations are giving the impression that this is people power, that they are going to overthrow the Islamic Republic. It's not.

"Mousavi himself believes in the system of the supreme leader. No one wants this to turn into a western nation," Fisk said.

"What the people want is to get rid of Ahmadinejad because they believe that his majority is a fraud. But they are not against the regime. People should not think that the republic is being contested by the people.

"They don't want the Shah back, they don't want to be run by Westerners. This is not a battle over the system of the supreme leader or the Islamic Republic."

Another revolution?

Fisk said the size of the rally on Monday was close to figures seen in Tehran and other cities during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but the amount of fire power used against them was very different.

"It's naive to make parallels with '79," Fisk said.

"The young people in Iran today are infinitely more educated and filled with much more complex political ideas than those who objected to the Shah.

"I think that Ahmadinejad may have won the election ... but the powers that be decided that winning the election wasn't enough. They wanted to humiliate the opposition and show how powerful the government was.

"That was a big mistake. If we are going to have a recount and it turns out that Ahmadinejad didn't win, how can this figure [Ahmadinejad officially won 63 per cent of the vote] turn into a much smaller figure?"

Fisk said that without the events of the last few days, particularly the seven deaths, the Council would never have made the offer to recount the vote.

"The government is most worried about containing [the protests]. This is not just a compromise, this is the government saying we have got a serious problem here," he said.

Al Jazeera
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