Thursday, June 11, 2009

Iran Votes

Iran votes tomorrow, and if the bits we have been getting in the West is any indication, it would appear it will be a close vote. CNN reports:
Whereas President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a sure bet just 10 days ago, the race has closed this past week, in what is clearly turning into a referendum on his four years in office.

Rivers of green have flowed through the streets, those decked out in the colors of his main challenger, former Prime Minster Mir Hossein Moussavi.

The week started with tens of thousands of his supporters forming a human chain along 17 kilometers of the main Tehran artery Vali-Asr Street.

Called out by text message and email the numbers exceeded all expectations, their ranks swelled by thousands more who joined the chain spontaneously or just lined the route to watch.

"Ahmadi bye bye, Ahmadi bye bye," they sang. Others held up posters that said 'NO LIARS.' It has become the opposition slogan
.”
Of course, the “democratic process” in Iran doesn’t work like it does in the west, as Kayhan Barzegar explains.
More than 450 Iranians registered to run for president, but the 12-member Guardian Council only gave its seal of approval to four, pictured above. Clockwise from top left, they are: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president; Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reformist who was prime minister from 1981 to 1989; Mohsen Rezai, a conservative and former commander of the Revolutionary Guard; and Mehdi Karroubi, a moderate and former speaker of parliament. According to Iran's Constitution, candidates must be politicians or clerics, hold Iranian citizenship, and be Shiite Muslims who believe in the principles of the Islamic Republic.”
Barzegar has an excellent overview of all the major candidates running this election. Laura Secor at the New Republic also explains why Ahmadinejad remains popular with a portion of the Iranian electorate.
Iran has its own version of the Red State dynamic. Although just 35 percent of the population lives in rural villages, which are more traditional and conservative than the cities, these people make up almost 65 percent of those who have voted in elections since 2005. Rural Iranians have been well-served by the Islamic Republic in general, and by Ahmadinejad in particular. The villages are poor, but since 1979, the Islamic Republic has brought them electricity, education, clean water, roads, local governance, and countless other improvements. Rural Iranians benefit from generous subsidies, becoming clients of the state even while urban Iranians have grown increasingly alienated.”
Let’s hope we see the end of Ahmadinejad's tenure as president, for this reason alone.

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