The results of the 2013 presidential election in Iran were announced after hours of delay, with Hassan Rohani, the only reformist-backed candidate, declared the victor. “This time it seems like they really counted the votes,” said some of the youth on the streets. “This time they took note of our votes.”
According to official statistics, 72 percent of eligible voters voted in this election; 18,613,329 voted for Hassan Rohani and 13,723,428 people did not participate in the elections.
Once the results were announced, people looking for an excuse to celebrate and release the pent-up excitement of the presidential race poured onto the streets, which soon became filled with honking cars and jubilant people. People cautiously began to take over major streets in the cities all across the country to express their joy, dancing and singing about ending the “era of Ahmadinejad.”
While Tehran was the focus of the media, similar celebrations were seen in other cities such as Tabriz, Khorramabad, Arak, Kermanshah and Mashhad.
In Tabriz, the main squares were taken over by the public after Rohani’s victory was announced, with many chanting slogans calling for the release of political prisoners. Amid the dancing and singing, pictures of MirHosein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami and other political figures were seen held aloft by people in the crowd.
In Arak, many people with purple wristbands took to the streets waving Iranian flags. The colour purple was adopted by the Green Movement in the recent election. Scattered slogans were heard in support of the reformist candidates in the last election, Mousavi and Karroubi, who remain under house arrest.
In Khorramabad and Mashhad, similar scenes played out on the streets, with many people putting photos of Rohani, Mousavi and Karroubi under the windshield wipers of cars.
In many major cities in Tehran, people did not retire until well past 2 AM, and perhaps if police had not intervened, celebrations would have gone on even longer.
The police remained on the sidelines most of the time and showed very little reaction to the people in the streets. Many were leaning on the walls or their cars and watching the crowds celebrate. After 1:30 AM, they were seen respectfully encouraging the crowds to disperse. They were clearly told to refrain from antagonizing the public or creating any conflict.
Despite the overwhelming celebrations, some Iranians chose to boycott the elections and many claim they were the true winners of this election.
A political activist who boycotted the elections tells a Radio Zamaneh correspondent: “They did practically everything to get the people to vote, yet 27 percent did not vote.”
A legal expert in Tehran who did not vote in the election says: “Unfortunately, in our country, emotions always prevail, and looking at things logically and practically draws accusations and bitterness. Let’s wait for the unreal atmosphere of Mr. Rohani’s victory to subside and then we will get to the essential issues that were not even addressed in the election.” He claims that by adding in the spoiled ballots, which could very well have contained some protest message rather than a vote, non-participants in the election could number as many as 15 million, which is close to the number of votes obtained by Hassan Rohani.
A labour activist in southwestern Iran says: “The working class has too many problems which are being neglected by politicians. …They came and told us Rohani will help remove the sanctions and this would improve production and the economy and improve labour conditions.… no one came to talk about labour laws and labour demands.”
Zohreh, a women’s rights activist, did not participate in the elections, saying: “The high number of votes obtained by Mr. Rohani creates illusions for Mr. Rohani and the people… Mr. Rohani thinks that now that he has won and kept Saeed Jalili from winning, he has already accomplished his mission for the people… I am concerned that during Mr. Rohani’s time, political and social activism will become superficial.”
Another political activist says: “They have created a cage called the elections and they say you are allowed to be free in this cage. Our political activists must break this cage… they say openness has to come gradually, but our experience shows that it does not work… 53 percent of Tehran voters did not participate in the election.”
Hassan Rohani, when questioned about his plans for the release of political prisoners, responded that this is not an issue that can be realized through the sole effort of the president but he assured the public that his victory was the sign of an opening of the political atmosphere, paving the path for the realization of their demands.
[translated from the Persian original]