Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Mad Mullah's Man Wins Again - For Now

Its Ahmedinejad by a landslide. The mad mullahs have announced that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won Iran's Presidential election with 62.63% of the vote while his main opposition, Mir-Hossein Mousavi came in second 33.75% of the vote. CNN is reporting that Ahmedinejad has taken his victory bow and called for calm. Chief Mad Mullah Khamenei has likewise weighed in, telling his country to shut up and move on . . . nothing to see here.

Those results seem more than a tad unbelievable. And indeed, there is rioting in the streets of Iran now and Fox is reporting that cell phone service has been cut off. Whatever may happen in the immediate aftermath, its probably reasonable to conclude that this election will likely have long term reverberations.

As to anectdotal evidence that all is not kosher in mullahland's Presidential election, there are some interesting observations from Juan Cole, looking at some of the logical disconnects in the election reports:

1. It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidates who hailed from that province.

2. Ahmadinejad is claimed to have taken Tehran by over 50%. Again, he is not popular in the cities, even, as he claims, in the poor neighborhoods, in part because his policies have produced high inflation and high unemployment. That he should have won Tehran is so unlikely as to raise real questions about these numbers.

3. It is claimed that cleric Mehdi Karoubi, the other reformist candidate, received 320,000 votes, and that he did poorly in Iran's western provinces, even losing in Luristan. He is a Lur and is popular in the west, including in Kurdistan. Karoubi received 17 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections in 2005. While it is possible that his support has substantially declined since then, it is hard to believe that he would get less than one percent of the vote. Moreover, he should have at least done well in the west, which he did not. . . .

6. The Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days before certifying the results of the election, at which point they are to inform Khamenei of the results, and he signs off on the process. The three-day delay is intended to allow charges of irregularities to be adjudicated. In this case, Khamenei immediately approved the alleged results. . . .

You can read his entire commentary here. More specific allegations of fraud come from the Debka File. It would seem that the mad mullahs set up a new system of voting for this election designed to maximize the possibility of voter fraud. They did not require voter identification at many voting centers and, indeed, are accused of running off over a million fake ID's for use by the "bassij" - Iran's thug militia - for use at stations that did requrie such identification. As an interesting aside, all this led Professor Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection to ponder whether ACORN has a branch office in Tehran:

Multiple voting resulting from lack of identification. Sounds like ACORN. More votes than people. Sounds like Minnesota.Voter identification is the key to preventing voter fraud. Which is why the Department of Justice's refusal to allow states, such as Georgia, to implement identification systems based on alleged disparate impact is so damaging to the credibility of elections.

The next few days will be a wait to see what shakes out. A perception of a stolen election has a way of really teeing off an electorate. For but one example, there was Ferdinand Marcos, whose stolen election in the Phillipines from a popular opposition led to a revoultion. That scenario is by no means unique in our world's recent history.

But for anything like that to occur, you have to have an electorate truly mobilized and involved. The Iranian electorate certainly meets that criteria this time around. Voting was, by all counts, very heavy. Official figures put the number of voters at 85% of those eligible. With that type of interest, the regime may well have just grabbed a tiger by the tail.

It has long been suggested that there has not been a counter-revolution in Iran because the middle class simply was too placid and apathetic. But an 85% turn-out suggests that they are apathetic no longer. Whether it was Mousavi's wife, who campaigned for more rights for women, or whether it was growing discontent at conditions inside Iran, something captured the people's imagination. For example, see this Martin Fletcher at UK's the Times:

Whatever the reason, Mr Mousavi's campaign took off. The youth of Tehran and other cities took to the streets in huge numbers. They flocked to Mousavi rallies in their tens of thousands. They turned the capital into a seething sea of green with their ribbons, headscarves, balloons and bandanas. They festooned the city with posters and banners. Until the small hours of each morning they packed squares, blocked junctions and careered around town in cars with horns blaring and pop music blasting.

The Islamic republic has never seen such sights before. It was almost open rebellion, an explosion of pent-up anger after four years in which the fundamentalist President and his morality police cracked down on dissent, human rights groups, and any dress or behaviour deemed unIslamic. “Death to the dictator,” young men and women roared at Mousavi rallies. “Death to the Government. . . .

That can't be good for the mad mullahs. As I wrote in an earlier post, looking at Iran and its recent domestic history:

Remember that it was less than a decade ago that Iran sat on the edge of a counter revolution – the so called Tehran Spring. But Iraq’s reformist president at the time, Imam Khatami, blinked and refused to support the movement. It was brutally repressed.

What has transpired since is near complete domination by hard liners opposed to any reform and who have rigged the elections to ensure their hold on power. The clerics are shifting ever more power to the 125,000 member Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the clerics’ primary vehicle for maintaining control of their country. The IRGC now control much of the day to day power in the country and are becoming wealthy beyond measure through their economic schemes. While the IRGC and clerics get rich, the economic situation for the 60 million other Iranians, made all the worse by Ahmedinejad, is critical. Inflation is running above 25% and unemployment among a population, the majority of which is under 30, is hitting new double digit highs each month. Food prices are soaring and gas is now being rationed. Iran is, in short, a tinder box.

I would not be surprised at all to find that, when all is said and done, this election lit the fuse to the tinder-box. Whether that fuse is long-burning or short is impossible to tell. The Iranian regime is brutally repressive and I would not take any bets on the fuse being a short one. But this could well mark the beginning of the end of one of the bloodiest regimes of the last half century. And the sooner Ahmedinejad and the mad mullahs are gone, the better, for both Iran and the world.

Related Posts:

Iran Buys Time, Obama Votes Present, Iraq's Status Is Recognized
Heating Up In Iran
Tehran Is Burning; What Will The Iranian Army Do? (Updated)
The Mad Mullah's Man Wins Again - For Now
The Next Moves In An Existential Chess Match (Background On Iran)

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