My heart goes to the youth in Iran, who I think really believed that these elections would be a turning point for their country, its reputation and its engagement with the rest of the world. I was not hopeful, despite the huge rallies for Mousavi, because if there’s one thing that history has shown us, it is that those in power do not let go of it easily.
But the sheer stupidity of the Iranian incumbency boggles the mind. Why not declare a narrow win for Ahmadinajad, say 52/48, that would leave the people disappointed but resigned? One would expect that with all the electoral agencies in the control of the government, there would be a little more subtlety when it came to stealing the elections.
I have a couple of theories about this; the first is that the election agency sent out a blanket message to its various local departments that Ahmadinajad be made to win and everyone went overboard, which accounts for the disproportionate winning percentages. With votes being cast by hand instead of by voting machines, it’s harder to control the level of fraud.
The second is that that this is a direct message to the Iranian people -“We can’t believe you fell for this democracy crap – this is the way we do things around here;” an ultimatum that they should shut up and give up any hope of real change.
Either way, if this coup goes through and Ahmadinajad is re-elected, it bodes very badly for the power dynamics in the Middle East. A de-legitimized Ahmadinajad will ramp up the international rhetoric, as he seeks to distract attention away from the rebellion brewing at home. A belligerent, defensive Iranian government will be impossible to deal with and international diplomacy will be conducted in a minefield where even the slightest hint from other players that they disapprove or dispute the legitimacy of the the new government will trigger instability.
One astute observer pointed out that it would have been far smarter for Khameini to have let Mousavi win. After all, the real seat of power is not with the President and Mousavi’s election would have gone a long way in reassuring and disarming the western world while Iran continued blithely with its nuclear agenda. Well, that didn’t happen, and now the streets of Tehran and other major cities are filled with protesters and riot police.
What happens next is anybody’s guess but my hope is that re-elections are scheduled once the mullahs have come to their senses. The members of the new generation of Iranians are not afraid the way their parents were and if this is not the year change happens, it is bound to come.
To get updates on what’s happening in Iran, here is a blog post that gives good sources. Forget about getting it from local news channels – the beautiful people running them have been tone deaf, as usual, to what really constitutes news.
Picture courtesy Sharam Sharif – Creative Commons