Last week's presidential election in Iran was both a disappointment and a wake-up call for anyone expecting the incumbent to have a close call or lose to his opponents. Despite whatever negative diplomatic spin official Washington tries to put on the outcome, Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad won in a landslide. Even eyewitnesses and disinterested journalists observing in person may disagree with why and how it happened so the next important question is how will the world outside Iran respond, and specifically, what will be the official and unofficial responses from America?
I put up a background post last week collecting a few links to a few Iranian expats in their deep hope that Iran might select a more moderate leader than the populist demagogue who won reelection. In a different post four years ago I collected a string of links collecting various opinions of observers at that time. Though the issues are complicated I came away with the impression that this man's election was something of a national embarrassment with apathy to blame on the part of people who should know better.
I'm not smart enough to say why Ahmadinejad won with such a lopsided victory but a list of guesses might include a groundswell of populist sentiment that he offers hope for improvements in the lives of a growing number of people trapped in a stressed economy. International sanctions, high inflation and tight credit from the global financial meltdown may be included. And I read somewhere that despite sitting on the world's richest oil reserves, Iran still has no refineries and imports gasoline. If true, this last item strikes me as bizarre.
This photo and comments from an Iranian blog offers a glimpse into the dynamics of the election.
In this picture you see a youngish girl with a modernish appearance selling Ahmadinejad. This is very hard to believe as I have never seen any Iranian girl with her features wearing that kind of make up and highlights. Iranian girls are very smart in knowing what to wear to enhance their beauties. They are extremely aware of not becoming a tableau! This one simply does not know this style of make up is wrong for her features: she would be regarded as tableau and that is very embarrassing by Iranian standards. We all know what has happened to our young girls wanting a bit of freedom with their appearance. Not a single Iranian girl got away with her appearance without being at least cautioned once.
This girl and the driver are both from the Revolutionary Guards (Sepah Pasdaran). She is Khahar(sister) Zynab and he is Baradar(brother) Mohsen. They are just doing a bit of 'taghiyeh' (holey lie) to get Ahmadinejad reelected. They seem to be having some fun doing it too. After the elections she will be back looking like this.
That was June 3. On June 13, as results of the election came clear, he posted this grim little post:
Once again the Iranians were fooled to the polls only and only for one purpose: to show the world that the regime has legitimacy.
The election is over but there seems to be a level of ferment in the population that was missing four years ago. I will be watching next how widespread this year's protests will be commemorating the student massacre of 1988. See last year's post Student Protest in Iran (Additional material).
I don't know how to puzzle together these upcoming events with the results of the election. Perhaps someone else can offer some ideas. My instinct is that Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad may clever enough as a politician to spin many people in the street toward his support but not necessarily students who are a notoriously hard to manipulate bunch in countries all over the world, including ours.
This is a video from last year.