Can A Nervous Regime Strike Fear Once More Into The Population It Fears Most?
By Steve Schippert | June 13, 2009
Much like Stanley Kubrick's 1971 movie Clockwork Orange, Iranian elections are irresistibly difficult to watch. And this election has all the hallmarks of being more than just another sequel, but rather that rare occurrence where it is even more compelling (and irresistibly difficult) than any of its serial predecessors. One of the smartest - and most principled - Iran experts, my friend Michael Ledeen, explains ably just why this is.
Their [open demonstrators by the thousands] candidate is the former prime minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi, an architect who designed some of the most oppressive features of the Islamic Republic when the Ayatollah Khomeini was the country's Supreme Leader, and who has been absent from public life for twenty years. By all accounts he is an uninspiring figure, a boring speaker, and an ineffective debater (he was beaten badly in a televised debate with President Ahmadinezhad the other night). So what can account for the frenzy on his behalf?
For one thing, he is not Ahmadinezhad, for whom there is a lot of hatred. The current circus is taking place against a background of mounting repression, featuring public executions of many young people (some said to be homosexuals), mass arrests, summary closing of the few remaining quasi-independent publications, increased censorship of telephone and internet communications, and a lot of nasty action against young people who do not meet the strict dress code and decorum rules imposed by the theocratic dictatorship.That so many people would openly defy such a regime is certainly significant, and it may well be that the reporters who see the current demonstrations as revolutionary, or at least insurrectionary, are quite right.
He is clearly the most popular candidate (and, as Michael further explains succinctly, not nearly as popular as his wife), and Iranians turned out to vote in record numbers, as indicated even by the Iranian regime-run media. This was not a spontaneous surge of support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And, just as it can be reasonably deduced without actually measuring that the sun is more distant than Mars, it can also be reasonably deduced without counting that Mousavi received a plurality if not outright majority of the authentic Iranian votes among the multiple candidates running. Both Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, as expected, are claiming victory and fraud by the other.
Nonetheless, drawing upon a personal international arsenal of a pervasive political polling apparatus and keen sense of both the Iranian electorate and candidate platforms, I have been consistently projecting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner for the past week. Either that, or the simple powers of observations of Iranian elections past. The winner is routinely the 'Chosen One' most favored by the regime. The reasons are not always clear, just as Michael Ledeen suggests may be afoot this time with Mousavi. And he may prove correct. Neither of us know, and none of us will until the regime dots the i's and crosses the t's and publishes them with finality in its controlled publications and broadcast media.
But it's hinting - perhaps lofting the trial balloons to see if the landscape rumbles with fury in rejection - by declaring Ahmadinejad the winner. For now.
Before the polling closed Mr Mousavi declared himself "definitely the winner" based on "all indications from all over Iran." He alleged widespread voting irregularities without giving specifics and hinted he was ready to challenge the final results.
Iran's state news agency responded moments after Mr Mousavi spoke, and reported that Mr Ahmadinejad was the victor. The report by the Islamic Republic News Agency gave no details.With more than 10 million votes counted, Ahmadinejad had 68.8 percent and Mousavi had 28.8 percent, said Kamran Daneshjoo, a senior official at the Interior Ministry.
How can this be, you might ask? There is mass hatred for Ahmadinejad, the embodiment of an even more hated brutal theocratic regime under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. And there were mass demonstrations, oddly not put down in the Iranian thug tradition, screaming support for Mousavi and, most notably, his wife.
For starters, with the reported record turnout - likely as true as it is useful for the traditional mullah 'presidential selection committee' - the polls were kept open for hours after the scheduled closing times. Perhaps understandable with such numbers. But perhaps also understandable if you are aware of what goes on with late voting in Iran.
Mehdi Khalaii explains exactly what this means at the Washington Institute in The Voting Manipulation Industry in Iran.
Voting can be easily manipulated in several ways:
Collecting birth certificates. In previous elections, reports have surfaced that the Imam Khomeini Committee, a large state charity affiliated with the leader (or, as he insists, supreme leader), Ali Khamenei, "rent" BCs belonging to the poor. It has been alleged that after regular voting hours, those engaged in fraud fill out ballots using the rented BCs. In some elections, polls remained open for many hours after the designated closing time, feeding concern that irregular votes were being cast.
The 'Birth Ceritificate' or 'BC' - not issued by hospitals but rather by the regime's National Organization for Civil Registration - is what is required at the poll in order to cast a ballot. Further identification to show the bearer is the actual person on the BC is not required.
In addition, as Khalaii explains in great detail, Iran has no voter registration and no official accurate count of how many voters there really are (a convenient oversight), no voter identification verification, the voter must write the candidate's name on the ballot and 20% of Iran is illiterate, there are 'mobile polling stations' and not exactly impartial poll workers, among other reasons.
We need not even consider that the candidates are each vetted by the Guardian Council, which ensures that no true moderates actually make presidential or parliamentary (masjid) ballots.
With a back end so constructed for corruption, considering the democracy hijacking practices at the front end is merely an academic exercise. Or perhaps it's vise versa.
Unless the Iranian people can in large and unified numbers muster the kind of courage so great that it is rare even among our own military heroes, this election has been decided. And was weeks ago. For unless the murderous regime feels the fear of a mass insurrection among the unarmed populace, the kind that would require genocide to put down, the election is over and the remainder of the weekend will be used by the regime to ensure that they can install the man they want without losing physical control of the Persian masses.
While another Ahmadinejad term as president will not be good for the Iranian people nor reflective of their choice and desires, at least the United States and her president will not be afforded the opportunity to buy into the mirage that there is a new 'moderate' in Iran with whom they can talk and negotiate. For it is the regime of mullahs that dictates policy and directs the terrorism that kills with ferocity and confidence. And they will remain along with their policies regardless who is president.
At least with Ahmadinejad, there is no hiding the true face of the regime. He has done more to make Americans keenly aware of the Iranian threat than the regime's entire murderous, terroristic blood trails through history.