TEHRAN | Iranian authorities announced Saturday that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won re-election by a commanding majority of nearly two-thirds of votes cast, but young Iranians protested in the streets of the capital and the president’s chief rival charged fraud.
An official tally presented on television by Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli, an Ahmadinejad appointee, said the president got 24 million votes to about 13 million for Mr-Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister who advocated economic and social reforms and better relations with the West.
The interior minister also reported a record turnout of 85 percent — an outpouring of participation that many analysts thought would result in a win for Mr. Mousavi or at least deprive Mr. Ahmadinejad of a first-round victory.
Scores of Mousavi supporters, unwilling to accept the official results, gathered in small groups on the streets and in Tehran’s central squares to protest.
They chanted slogans such as “Mousavi we will protect you” and “Death to the Dictator” in a reference to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
“We’re still all in shock. We don’t know what to say. Maybe if they would reveal the regional counts people would be able to accept it,” said Bita Ramezani, 25, a graphic designer.
“This reveals the true nature of the Islamic Republic,” said Reza Jamshidi, 23, a mechanical engineer at the University of Tehran.
Earlier in the day, police units used cement blocks to bar the roads around the Ministry of Interior, where vote counting was taking place.
Motorcycle-mounted policemen circulated among the crowds in central Tehran. A photographer outside the reformist newspaper Etelaat where Mr. Mousavi had been scheduled to give a press conference, reported that police attacked journalists gathered outside. The press conference was cancelled and rumors spread that Mr. Mousavi was either under house arrest or in closed talks with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on Iran’s domestic and foreign policies.
An earlier statement posted on Mr. Mousavi’s Web site accused the government of stealing the election from Mr. Mousavi, who declared victory Friday evening before Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters did the same.
“I register my strongest protest to the present process and to the obvious and widespread irregularities on election day,” the statement said. “I warn that I will not surrender to this dangerous stagecraft. … I recommend to the authorities to immediately put an end to this process before it is too late,” he continued.
Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said Mr. Mousavi had been told by the Interior Ministry Friday night that he won, only to have the ministry reverse itself.
“If Moussavi’s claim proves credible, that the Interior Ministry declared him the winner first and then turned around and officially announced Ahmedinejad is the winner, then the election was stolen in a matter of hours with the help of the Revolutionary Guards and security agents who
have taken control of Tehran,” Mr. Ghaemi said.
Analysts had expressed concern about the potential for violence should either man be declared the victor.
“Outside elements want to detract from this sweet moment,” said a television announcer reading from a prepared speech by Mr Khamenei Saturday afternoon. “I warn everyone to be vigilant. Saturday must be a day of kindness and comfort towards each other.”
Heavy rainclouds gathered ominously over Tehran as crowds of reformist protesters ran through ranks of gridlocked cars in the avenues leading off Fatemi and Jihad squares away from police and units of the Basij, a paramilitary force.
“It’s a psychological war,” said Nasser Ghassemi, 50, a factory owner and Ahmadinejad supporter, of the debate over whether Mr. Mousavi would concede defeat. “They’re trying to manipulate people and make a sharp atmosphere on the streets.”
Crowds of young people broke flagstones into smaller pieces and hurled them at police units as business owners pulled down shutters over their stores.
Women wearing modest clothing and bearded men belonging to the Mousavi campaign circulated among stalled cars distributing printed statements from their candidate, throwing cautious looks around as they flitted between cars.
On Vali Asr avenue, Tehran’s longest street extending from mountains and wealthy neighborhoods in the north to the working class south, rows of police vehicles blocked access to the pumps of a gas station to prevent it from being attacked by protestors.
While Mr. Ahmadinejad has disappointed many middle-class Iranians by poor management of the economy and a confrontational policy toward the West, others identify with the former Tehran mayor as a modest man who has not sought to benefit financially from his position and who has stood up to the outside world.
“We had 16 years where nothing changed but Iran has moved in these past four years,” said Esmat Mostafavi, 43, a teacher holding an Ahmadinejad poster standing outside her car along Tehran’s main Vali Asr highway. “The only person who made progress on this was our president.”
• Iason Athanasiadis is reporting on Iran through a grant offered by the Pulitzer Center.