Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran’s divisive election

Elections have always been “scripted charades” in Iran, said Amir Taheri in The Wall Street Journal, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection on Friday was particularly “dubious.” The signs of fraud—a too-quick tally of votes, an unrealistic 62.6 percent—caused many Iranians, including clerics, to protest the election as “a putsch by the military-security organs” that backed Ahmadinejad over ex–Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi. So much for the hope that a repressive theocracy will accept the will of the people.

Don’t be so quick to yell fraud, said Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty in The Washington Post. The Western media portrayed Iranians as “enthusiastic” about Mousavi, but our “scientific sampling” of voters across Iran showed Ahmadinejad leading by more than 2 to 1. Mousavi, in fact, was more popular only among university students, graduates, and the wealthy. So the election results may actually “reflect the will of the Iranian people.”

Iran is at best a “managed democracy,” so the people’s will is heavily filtered, when solicited at all, said Anne Applebaum in Slate. But even the most heavily managed election is “ultimately uncontrollable,” and the “whiff of fraud” opened a new crack in Iran’s “passive society,” leading to the biggest wave of protests in a decade. Even if the election results are “farcical,” they show that “a bad election is better than none at all.”
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