Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Guardian
Wishful Thinking from Tehran
I have been in Iran for exactly one week covering the 2009 Iranian election carnival. Since I arrived, few here doubted that the incumbent firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad would win. My airport cab driver reminded me that the president had visited every province twice in the last four years – "Iran isn't Tehran," he said. Even when I asked Mousavi supporters if their man could really carry more than capital, their responses were filled with an Obamasque provisional optimism – "Yes we can", "I hope so", "If you vote." So the question occupying the international media, "How did Mousavi lose?" seems to be less a problem of the Iranian election commission and more a matter of bad perception rooted in the stubborn refusal to understand the role of religion in Iran.

Of course, the rather real possibility of voter fraud exists and one must wait in the coming weeks to see how these allegations unfold. But one should recall that in three decades of presidential elections, the accusations of rigging have rarely been levied against the vote count. Elections here are typically controlled by banning candidates from the start or closing opposition newspapers in advance.

In this election moreover, there were two separate governmental election monitors in addition to observers from each camp to prevent mass voter fraud. The sentimental implausibility of Ahmedinejad's victory that Mousavi's supporters set forth as the evidence of state corruption must be met by the equal implausibility that such widespread corruption could take place under clear daylight. So, until hard evidence emerges that can substantiate the claims of the opposition camp we need to look to other reasons to explain why so many are stunned by the day's events.
I don't know one way or the other about the level of fraud but I was put off last night by Mousavi's early claims of victory with nothing to back it up. And I'm not a big fan of youthquakes, but I am one of democracy. We'll see.

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