President Hassan Rouhani has again implicitly blamed the Guardian Council for preventing his votes from rising to 28 million in the May 19 presidential election.
“I am sorry that about 4 million people weren’t able to cast their ballots [because of time restraints],” he said on May 24 at a gathering of his campaign managers.
It was the second time in a week Rouhani had referenced the 4 million people who did not get a chance to cast their ballot in the recent election due to the Guardian Council’s strict rules.
By all accounts, at least a million people were not able to vote due to long lines. Some estimates say that more than four million were affected.
“Somebody sent me a message saying he waited in line for five and a half hours to cast his ballot, but he was deprived of his right to vote,” Rouhani said.
“I am sorry that 4 million votes were not cast. Nevertheless, a high number of votes should not be a source for concern” for the Guardian Council, he added sarcastically.
According to the president, it took the Guardian Council 12 hours to accept the National Registry number of each voter as sufficient proof of identity for casting ballots.
However, Guardian Council (GC) spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei denied Rouhani’s comments.
“Contrary to what the president has said, it took only two hours for the GC to approve National Registry numbers as sufficient ID for casting votes,” he said.
Due to the drawn-out identity checks, long lines formed at many voting stations, which left people still waiting when the polls closed at midnight. Iranian election laws state that voting cannot be extended beyond midnight on election day.
Rouhani also praised the elections and the voters and touched upon other issues. But was interesting was the reaction of his audience.
While Rouhani was addressing his campaign managers, the audience repeatedly roared, “Our message is clear, the house arrests must end!”
They were referring to the prominent figures of the Green Movement -- Mir Hossein Mousavi; his wife, Zahra Rahnavard; and Mehdi Karroubi -- who have been under house arrest since the 2011. They were labelled “troublemakers” after the June 2009 bloody uprising of millions of protesters who accused the regime of engineering the presidential election in favor of Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Mousavi and Karroubi were Ahmadinejad’s challengers in the controversial election.
Rouhani’s promises to end the house arrest was a main theme of his first campaign for the presidency -- a promise that has yet to be fulfilled.