In a bid to convince Iran's protesters that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's unexpected landslide victory in the June 12 election was legitimate, Iran's top electoral body, the Guardian Council, began a recount on Monday of 10 percent of the ballots. Mr. Ahmadinejad had won twice as many votes as challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, according to the official results.
In a further small concession to opposition protesters after the disputed vote, authorities said they had extended the deadline to investigate claims of fraud by five days.
Mr. Mousavi has refused to take part in the partial recount, saying that only annulment of the election and a fresh vote will determine the truth about the results.
Experts say that the lack of transparency throughout the process, and a host of irregularities during the vote and the interim and unknown state of the ballot boxes – never mind millions of extra ballots that were printed – make any recount meaningless.
"The problem now is that a process so lacking in transparency from the outset cannot be remedied in retrospect," wrote Michael Meyer-Resende, coordinator of the Berlin-based Democracy Reporting International, and Mirjam Künkler, assistant professor of Near Eastern politics at Princeton University in an opinion piece for Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper on Monday. "Even a recount, whether partial or total, will not do. If the authorities wanted to commit fraud, the legal framework gave them ample time and opportunities to manipulate the numbers, change the result sheets, and swap ballots in the boxes. Only a complete rerun of the election with much greater transparency and a conducive human rights context can be a solution."
Mehdi Karroubi, another defeated candidate, said: "The election's annulment is the only way to regain people's trust."
Supreme religious leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei accepted the Ahmadinejad victory within hours of polls closing, calling it a "divine assessment." The Guardian Council – which earlier had found irregularities that added up to 3 million votes – also has flatly stated that the result stands.
Iran's state news agency indicated the way the recount would go, according to Reuters. The tally so far, in one district, gave Ahmadinejad even more votes than he had on June 12.