- ActivitesElection CoverageIran
- June 13, 2009
- 8 minutes read
The Eve of Iran’s Presidential Election
The tension is palpable. An editorial in the Financial Times notes that challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi has “mounted an unexpectedly menacing insurgent campaign that has galvanised reformists out of years of despondency.”
The New York Times’ Richard Cohen, who has been reporting on the election from within Tehran, says that Tehran has been engulfed by a “green tsunami” of Mousavi supporters. One remarkable aspect of this election, writes Jason Rezaian at Tehran Bureau, is the extent to which Mousavi’s campaign has energized young women. Indeed, around 70 percent of the participants at one recent rally were women.
In the Los Angeles Times, Borzou Daragahi reports that street rallies have even begun to feel like a party, complete with impromptu dance parties. This year’s situation is particularly unusual, Daragahi writes, “Iran tends to loosen up during quadrennial presidential and parliamentary elections [with] street life a little less staid…you never had anything like this year, when many of the country’s top power brokers [have opened] up the campaign by allowing late-night campaigning and television debates.”
Following recent reports that the government of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be prepared to rig the election in his favor, the reformists are up in arms. Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard–a major political figure in her own right given Ahmadinjad’s recent attacks on her credentials–warned that “If there is vote rigging, Iran will rise up.”
At Real Clear World Mehdi Khalaji provides a profile of how Iran’s elections operate and their vulnerability to interference. Karim Sadjadpour suspects that defeating Ahmadinejad would require a landslide for the reformists. He looks to Ali Reza Alavi-Tabar, a reformist political strategist, who estimates that compensating for conservative vote rigging would require a challenger to win by a margin of over 5 million votes. Sadjadpour is certain that things could get pretty bitter for the losing side and writes in Foreign Policy that this year’s Iranian election may be somewhat reminiscent of the situation in Florida during the 2000 U.S. presidential election.
The Telegraph reports that Mousavi may even be poaching from Ahmadinejad’s traditional base of support, the original Basiji veterans of the Iran-Iraq war–not to be confused with the current generation of fundamentalist youth gangs who are Ahmadinejad’s most vocal supporters. As Hamid Salehi explains “there are two different kinds of Basiji, there are the real Basiji like us, who participated and volunteered in the war, and then there are those who support the president who just use it as a label.”
Meanwhile, an interesting debate has opened up over the intentions of Iran’s Jewish voters. Al Arabiya reports that Israeli experts expect that Iran’s 25,000-strong Jewish population will likely support Ahmadinejad, while experts from within Iran argue that they are more likely to stand behind a candidate who is more supportive of minority rights.
Speaking of rights, in the Washington Post Shirin Ebadi writes that although “it is not officially on the ballot, the future of human rights in Iran is at stake” in what government officials have called “the freest country in the world.” The hardliner government has stepped up harassment of human rights defenders and women in particular. Ebadi takes the position that the victor of tomorrow’s election is unimportant, rather the “true mark of success in Iran will be an election that follows due process. Politicians come and go–but a healthy, functioning and fair legal system is the people’s long-term guarantee for greater human rights.”
Meanwhile, from Washington, Senator John Kerry chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has said in an interview with the Financial Times that it is “ridiculous” for the U.S. to insist that Iran cease uranium enrichment, as such assertions have only “hardened the lines.”