Heavy Turnout, Rumors of Foulness
"Iranians began lining up at polling stations as early as 90 minutes before the start of voting this morning to try to beat crowds. Officials late this afternoon extended voting by two hours until 8 p.m. or later. Official results may not be announced until Saturday...
"Voters in upscale northern Tehran neighborhoods such as Niavaran and Farmanieh lined up around the corners outside schools and mosques used as polling places.
"They reported waiting up to 2 1/2 hours to cast ballots, in what many described as a vote of protest against the Ahmadinejad era, characterized by increased Islamic morality patrols and a confrontational stance toward the West...
"In the countryside, voters dutifully showed up at the polls, many to cast ballots for Ahmadinejad, who has earned their popularity and trust with giveaways, low-interest loans and flashy construction projects as well as his tirades against the rich and elite.
"In the town of Varamin, 40 miles southeast of Tehran, trickles of voters showed up at polling stations. 'I didn't vote for 10 years,' said Hassan Hatami, a 27-year-old wholesale clothing distributor, proudly showing off the blue ink on his index finger. 'But I'm voting now to show my support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I see he's done good things for the people.'"
In addition to turnout, the thing to watch today is vote rigging and intimidation. Several days ago, employees at the Interior Ministry warned of a ruling calling upon election supervisors to ensure that Ahmadinejad wins. It was almost certainly issued by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, whose followers include not only Ahmadinejad, but many among the Basij militias whose election-day maneuvers probably put Ahmadinejad into the second round in 2005. Yesterday, Mousavi issued an open letter claiming that Basiji and the IRGC were already interfering in the election. As of today, cell phone communication is blocked throughout the country, which reformists say is an attempt to hinder vote monitoring efforts. Pro-Mousavi web sites are also blocked, which pro-Ahmadinejad media justify as a prohibition of illegal campaigning on election day.
UPDATE: Rasmus Christian Elling, in this continuously updated post, reports:
"A violent attack on Musavi’s headquarters in Qeytariyeh, Tehran, has been reported by pro-Musavi web sites. Furthermore, pro-Musavi websites report of widespread vote fraud and manipulation in Esfahan."
(Crossposted to American Footprints)