Tim Marshall: 'Tell the world how they have stolen our election'

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The Independent Online

"Go, go dictator!" was the chant of several thousand protesters as they fought with police, burnt squad cars and attacked government offices. But by the end of the weekend another voice was heard and the original revolution had spoken. Where the opposition could muster a few thousand, President Ahmadinejad supporters packed the streets in their tens of thousands, waving his picture and roaring their support.

On Saturday, protesters tried to light a fire which would spread through the capital and then the country. The forces of order were ready. In Tehran each motorcycle in the riot squad carries two officers. One to drive, another to hit people with a long baton.

Yesterday the protesters had a new chant: "Join us, join us," they implored any onlookers. There was no doubting the massive support for the protesters but also no doubt that few joined their ranks.

On hearing a foreign voice, people came up saying: "Tell the world how they have stolen our election." One woman in a headscarf and full length black tunic said: "We hate this regime and its stupid friends in Russia, Venezuela and Gaza."

But those friends have all congratulated Mr Ahmadinejad on his victory. More importantly, Ayatollah Khameini, the Supreme Leader, has recognised the victory. At that moment, it looked like game over for the opposition leader, Mirhossein Mousavi. He has told people to continue to demonstrate, but the critical mass required to make a difference has yet to materialize. He also lodged an official complaint with the body overseeing the election, the Guardian Council, arguing that with an illiteracy rate of 20 per cent, fraud was possible as voters had to write the name of their choice, not just mark an X against a symbol. He can point to the 14,000 mobile voting stations, most of which were unsupervised by candidates representatives, and point out that the tally forms at each of the 46,000 fixed stations are never published. They are sent to the Interior Ministry which totals them up and then publishes the final tally. The two forms cannot be cross checked by independent observers. That may seem worthy of investigating, but the Supreme Leader picks the Council and has already declared his hand. The hardliners can now argue they have a mandate to enforce the principals of the Islamic Revolution but they know they are ruling a powder keg of frustration.

Iran will, as before, be speaking with one strong hardline voice on the nuclear issue. There will be few restraining voices in government and in his speech yesterday, the president said nothing would stand in the way of Iran's right to be a modern country – usually code for a nuclear power. We now have a new American President, a new Israeli Prime Minister and a new mandate for the Iranian President; The diplomatic dance is about to begin in earnest.

The author is the Foreign Affairs Editor for Sky News