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Crushing defeat for Ahmadinejad in Ahwaz

Ahwazi Arabs delivered a crushing blow to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received in the elections for the Assembly of Experts and municipal authorities as well as by-elections for the Majlis.

Writing in the Elaph newspaper, the Tehran-based Ahwazi journalist Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf wrote that 60 per cent of eligible voters boycotted the elections in the Arab majority province of Khuzestan, where over 170 Arab candidates were barred from standing. Despite this, anti-Ahmadinejad independent "reformists" achieved a complete landslide.

The popular rejection of Ahmadinejad comes after months of mass arrests and executions of Ahwazi political activists and the outlawing of the Lejnat Al-Wefaq (Reconciliation Committee), an Arab group that had won all but one seat on the Ahwaz City Council in 2003. This year's elections saw Ahmadinejad supporters win just two seats on the council, despite violent intimidation; over 25,000 political activists have been arrested and hundreds have been killed or 'disappeared' since the April 2005 Ahwazi Arab intifada (uprising) against the regime.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The largest vote was the boycott vote, with an absolute majority of Ahwazis rejecting the entire political system. Those elected to office have no mandate to govern when the majority of voters boycotted the elections. Unless Ahwazi Arabs are allowed to form their own parties to contest free and fair elections, they have the right to reject the political system and sabotage the instruments of their oppression.

"Ahmadinejad is so unpopular in Ahwaz that his supporters cannot achieve any respectable vote despite state violence and ballot stuffing. Ahwazi voters completely rejected him in last year's presidential election and anti-Ahmadinejad sentiment has hardened since he came to office. Ahmadinejad has not even dared to step into the city because he is not welcome."