The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Timeslead with the latest from Friday’s elections in Iran, where, contrary to all predictions, two conservative politicians won the most votes and will face each other in a runoff election that will probably take place on Friday. Two reform candidates spoke out against the elections on Saturday, accusing hard-liners of rigging the elections to ensure that the mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would make it through to the next round.
Saturday seems to have been a confusing day in Iran, and all the stories reflect that mood as reporters tried to piece together the story. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who campaigned on the need for a better relationship with the United States, had always been the front-runner in the elections, and he did end up with the most votes. Ahmadinejad, who does not care to improve relationships with the United States and says Iran should not back away from its nuclear program, was considered a virtual unknown in the race but came in only 1 1/2 percentage points behind the former president.
When the Interior Ministry issued its first results, it had Rafsanjani in first place, followed by Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of Parliament and a reform candidate. Half an hour later, the Guardian Council, which is a panel made up of hard-line clerics that has ultimate control over government actions but is not supposed to interfere in ballot counting, announced that Ahmadinejad was actually in first place. When the final tally was announced, Rafsanjani finished with 21 percent of the votes and Ahmadinejad with 19.5 percent. Karroubi held a news conference announcing that there had been interference with the vote-counting process and appealed to Iran’s religious leader to investigate the charges. The most prominent reformist candidate, Mostafa Moin, who was widely expected to take second place in the elections but finished fifth, also echoed the charges, saying: “our newborn democracy is in danger.”
The WP picks up rumors that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist might resign when the Supreme Court ends its current term next week and fronts a story on the three main candidates for the nomination to replace him. It seems the basic question that President Bush will have to face is whether he wants to pick a reliable conservative or whether he would prefer to be the first president to appoint a Hispanic judge to the Supreme Court. “Outside advisers to the White House” say the three main candidates are federal appeals Judges John G. Roberts and J. Michael Luttig, along with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Although Bush seems to be eager to appoint the first Hispanic, many conservatives have said Gonzales is not conservative enough for the Supreme Court.
The LAT fronts the seemingly growing trend of detainees in Iraq being tortured and abused by their Iraqi captors. According to the Human Rights Ministry, up to 60 percent of the approximately 12,000 prisoners face some kind of abuse while imprisoned. The country’s legacy of torture under Saddam Hussein’s regime, coupled with the increasing frustration over the growing insurgency, seem to have made abuse of detainees a commonplace occurrence. U.S. officials say they are worried about these allegations, fearing that it might be seen as an extension of the training they provided to the new Iraqi forces. The NYT goes inside with a data-heavy article on the increase in the number of foreign fighters who have been imprisoned by U.S. and Iraqi troops in recent months. The numbers seem to illustrate that there is an increasing presence of foreign fighters in Iraq, and although their numbers are small, they are seen as playing an important role in the insurgency.
The WP fronts a picture of, and the rest go inside with, the continuation of the Marine offensives in western Iraq, where it was reported that at least 50 insurgents were killed. The NYT fronts the discovery of an insurgent torture center during this offensive that contained four imprisoned Iraqis. Although U.S. troops had found these sorts of sites before, it is rare to find victims inside who are alive to tell the tale. The Times focuses on telling the story of one man, a former member of the Iraqi army, who said he was kidnapped from his home and tortured for 22 days. On the other side of Iraq, two U.S. soldiers were killed in an apparent firefight.
Following up on yesterday’s stories, the NYT fronts a news analysis claiming that the failure of the European Union countries to reach an agreement on a budget on Friday night has caused damage to the organization that might not be able to be repaired. This was the first gathering after the failed referendums in France and the Netherlands on the proposed EU constitution. The main points of contention at the meeting were between Britain, who refused to accept a reduction in its annual rebate of $6 billion a year, and France, who rejected a proposal to reduce the $13 billion in farm subsidies it receives ever year from the European Union.
When there’s nothing else to do… According to the LAT, some of the hospitals in the areas of Florida that were hit by four hurricanes in 2004 are reporting a sharp increase in births. A hospital in the southwest part of the state, for example, delivered 76 babies in May 2004 and 102 babies in the same month of this year. “We were so wrapped up in taking care of folks that it really didn’t occur to us, the reason for the increase,” Danielle Dreher, a hospital marketing director, said. “One of the nurses remarked, ‘You know how these kinds of things happen nine months after a major disaster.’ That’s when the light bulb went on.”