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Prayer Leaders Allege Election Irregularities

Hardliner cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami leads the Friday prayer at Tehran University on November 11, 2016.

One hour after Friday Prayers leaders, including the prayer leader for Tehran, used their pulpits to allege widespread irregularities and fraud in the May 19 elections, the Electoral Headquarters (EH) demanded accountability for what it labeled as “untrue and divisive” claims.

The official IRNA news agency quoted the EH as saying it will pursue the matter legally and that it is considering “pursuing the issue of fake claims in defense of the people’s rights.”

The EH already sent a letter to the Commission for Friday Prayer Policy, in which it accused Friday Imams of “spreading untrue and fake information or creating divisions and tensions” regarding the record of election-monitoring bodies.

The EH also demanded time for the Interior Ministry to address these claims during next week’s Friday Prayers. The EH operates under the supervision of the Interior Ministry.

Conservatives have repeatedly mentioned widespread irregularities and vote-rigging related to the May 19 presidential election, and the statements of prayer leaders now seem an attempt to continue this line of attack.

Although controversial Tehran prayer leader Ahmad Khatami spoke of “many irregularities” in his sermon on May 26, he added these would not have changed the outcome of the election.

Other conservatives have made similar statements, apparently alleging that without irregularities the conservative candidate Ebrahim Raeisi would have received a larger share of the vote.

The incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, defeated his challenger by 57 percent to 38 percent of the votes.