Sunday, December 17, 2006

Iran elections update -- Updated again..

Updated, First posted a week ago.

News is coming in now that the elections in Iran show Ahmadinejad is far less popular than the US press would have one believe. It rather takes the wind out of the sails for those who would advertise the Muslim/Arab world as a single mass of evil. (They aren't all Arabs, to begin with. The Iranians are anything but, and have little use for Arabs.)

From the BBC...

Iran's moderate former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has won election to Iran's powerful clerical body, the Assembly of Experts, results show.

With more than half the votes counted, Mr Rafsanjani, who was defeated in the 2005 presidential election, had a clear lead at the top of the list.

The election - and simultaneous local polls - was seen as a test of support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Early results suggest liberals and moderates have regained some influence.
Official results have not yet been announced in either of the two elections.

Displaying what correspondents describe as a new lease of political life, Mr Rafsanjani led the poll with 1.3 million votes as counting continued. He is almost half a million votes ahead of the second placed candidate. His main rival, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi - seen as a political mentor to President Ahmadinejad - is trailing in sixth place, but with enough votes to retain a seat on the Assembly of Experts.

Mr Rafsanjani's strong performance has exceeded his supporters' expectations after his humiliating defeat in 2005, the BBC's Sadeq Saba in Tehran says. The assembly of 86 theologians supervises the activities of Iran's supreme leader and chooses his successor when he dies.

Mr Rafsanjani's success was helped by an unexpectedly high turnout and by a new alliance between him and the reformists, our correspondent says.

Thanks Cernig for the link.


Ahmadinejad is not universally admired at home...

Hundreds of pro-reforms students burned pictures of hard line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, booed him with chants of “Ahmadi Nezhad, symbol of discrimination and dictatorship” and threw firecrackers in an effort to disrupt his speech at a university on Monday, according to eyewitnesses and reports from several Iranian independent news agencies. [Look at a Google Blog search already.]

It was the first time that the fanatic president who was elected last July on promises to fight corruption and hardship for the poor, had faced such open hostility from students.

But a spokesman for the Government said the President was not deterred and completed his address. “While he was speaking today they tried to interrupt but they couldn’t and they even burned his pictures while he was speaking and they threw firecrackers but Ahmadi Nezhad continued his speech, undeterred”, he added.

While the spokesman claimed “50 to 60 students were involved”, eyewitnesses said hundreds of students chanted “Death to the dictator” as basiji students and forces as well as units of presidential guards clashed with anti-Ahmadi Nezhad students at the Amir Kabir University in Tehran. At least two students had been wounded and taken to hospital, sources said.

Despite severe security measures, the protesting students apparently avoided security guards who tried to prevent them from attending the speech at Amir Kabir University, according to the student news Web site, “AdwarNews”.

“As Ahmadi Nezhad approached the podium to speech, the members of the Islamic Students Association began booing and chanting, while some even burned pictures of the Iranian president”, Adwar confirmed.

“As students chanted “Liar, Get Out”, Ahmadi Nezhad got so angry that he accused the students of being agents of the United States and being on the American’s payroll. He then threatened to punish them harshly”, one student told Iran Press Service, adding that officials from the University had filled the auditorium with basij volunteers and women clad in black chadors, posing as students.

More at the link, including a photo or two.

Amir Taheri is not expecting anything but trouble for Ahmadinejad at the polls.

(Amir Taheri bio link.)

While trying to project his image as a world leader offering an alternative to "American hegemony", President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran may be heading for his first major political defeat at home. In fact, some analysts in Tehran expect his defeat to be so decisive as to puncture the super-inflated image created by his friends and foes, albeit for different reasons.

It is in the context of two sets of elections, to be held on Dec. 15, that Ahmadinejad's defeat is expected to materialize.

The first election will be for local government authorities throughout Iran, deciding the fate of thousands of village and town councils that provide the day-to-day interface of the Khomeinist regime with citizens.


The two sets of elections are important not because they reflect the true wishes of the Iranian people. Elections in the Islamic republic are more like primaries within the same party in the United States. Also, since all election results could eventually be cancelled by the Council of the Guardians or the "Supreme Guide", the possibility of genuine opposition figures coming to power through elections is almost nil.

Nevertheless, elections in the Islamic republic must be treated as important for two reasons. The first is that they provide a more or less accurate picture of the relative strength of the various rival factions within the regime, thus providing an insight into the current mood of he ruling elite. The second is that the "Supreme Guide" and his security services could arrange every election in a way to reflect the new mood and open the way for policy changes. In 1997, for example, the "Supreme Guide" and his services felt the need for a smiling face and arranged for Khatami to be elected president. In 2005, shaken by student revolts, workers' strikes and growing American pressure in the region, they decided that a return to radicalism would be the better ticket. That helped Ahmadinejad become president, despite the fact that his initial mass base consisted only of five million votes, out of 46 million eligible voters.

A setback for Ahmadinejad in the two elections next week may not necessarily signal a desire on the part of the ruling elite to step back from the brink of an open conflict with the US. But it would provide a warning to Ahmadinejad not to become too big for his boots, either at home or abroad. It would be interesting to see how Ahmadinejad and his radical base might respond to their first major setback at a crucial time.

No comments: