While the Iranian Interior Ministry reported that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won a landslide electoral victory over reformist challenger Mir Hussein Mousavi by a total of 62%-35%, allegations have been voiced by Mousavi and several other prominent Iranian politicians that the election results were falsified. Violent demonstrations broke out earlier across the country as supporters of Mousavi clashed with riot police.
There are several reasons the Iranian government (it's unelected leaders - including Khomeini) would attempt to steal the elections. First, the Ayatollah has had disagreements with Mousavi for at least three decades and all but openly supported Ahmadinejad's reelection. Despite disagreements with Mousavi and support for the incumbent, Khomeini did approve Mousavi to run for office, perhaps severely underestimating the support he would attract from young, urban Iranians disillusioned with Ahmadinejad's leadership. Mousavi's supporters by and large sought greater political rights for women (and men too) and friendlier relations with Iran - two possibly unacceptable tenets for the Ayatollah. It may have been that Khomeini simply did not think Mousavi could win, or did not predict the outpouring of strong calls for reform - not just of presidential policy, but for reform of the very religious establishment that rules the country. Mousavi was approved by Khomeini, believing at best he'd be trounced by Ahmadinejad and at worst he'd win with dispassionate support of voters simply voting against the status quo. Instead, Mousavi exploded onto the scene with a message of change that rallied young Iranians much the way Obama's candidacy did in the States. Fearing for his own Islamic regime, Khomeini then could have rigged the results to nip the new "velvet revolution" in the bud before it gained too much momentum and influence. The outpouring of demonstrations and violence agains the regime and riot police indicate that Khomeini may have made another miscalculation if indeed he did order the election results rigged. He underestimated the support Mousavi's reform movement already had.
This is not to assert that Iranian elections were rigged. Western polls may have simply overstated Mousavi's support if the majority of their polls were based too heavily in Tehran and other easy-to-reach urban centers. Ahmadinejad's main support did come from rural, conservative elements of Iranian society and Western polls may not have accounted for this.
It also appears that Mousavi is being held under house arrest.
Here are some helpful links:
A summary of the election timeline, Mousavi's letter to his supporters, Matthew Yglesias comments, Juan Cole details why he believes the results were rigged ,Cenk Uyger (of the Young Turks) comments
The Times and Post are also running front page stories on their sites about the elections.
I'm also going to try and get our own Annie to write an analysis of the election and what this might mean for the future of Iran. Updates to follow.