I was sitting down to write a friend an email and, since she had mentioned it in hers, penning my thoughts on the recent presidential election in Iran. When I reached the fifth paragraph and more came to me, I realized that I was running the risk of fatally boring my friend. As you, the kind-hearted readers of this blog, have put up with much worse (i.e. much longer) in the past, I thought I'd just spread it out in front of you and refer my friend to the permalink. Here you go.
I think the story of the Iranian election fraud has been enormously (and quite irresponsibly) blown out of any proportion. Some guy won the election with a landslide, two thirds against one third, or something like that. The difference in votes was more than ten million, explained by a turnout of 85% in a big country. If there was fraud, even if eight million votes have been stolen, the result would still stand.
Why the protests then and the chaos, why the sacrifices that citizens in Tehran make when they demonstrate? And why the unanimity of the protest? I think the country is divided more than the US ever was. I'm simplifying, but I think all the poor people from the villages voted for candidate A, while the aspiring urban elite voted for candidate M. A won and M's supporters are upset. They talk to their friends, and no one seems to support A. Who voted for this guy, they wonder. Given that Iran's democracy was never the strongest, they suspect the worst. They feel cheated and dive deep into conspiracies. And they vent their anger. They know twitter and blogger, they have cell phones and broadband and can organize protest marches with ease. They can also communicate with the world and just happen to hold their marches where international journalists are, in the capital city of Tehran.
Seemingly out of nowhere, chaos breaks out, to the massive bafflement of the religious and political rulers. One night they celebrate victory with lamb shanks oozing flavor, steaming green tea and pious virgins dancing to the sound of the Oud, the next morning they get up and see the streets clogged with shouting youths.
There probably was some fraud. In the days leading up to the election, the polls were so unambiguously in favor of candidate M, that the establishment saw finagling with the numbers as their only way of exiting unscathed. The morning after the election, they could have said, 'Sorry, guys, the percentages are not quite what was reported', made some modification and everyone would probably have gone home.
However, when you run a country in God's stead like the fatwa-wielding geezer with the black turban and long bushy beard does, public admission of errors, faults or sins is not an option. You have to grit your teeth and rely on the goons you have patrolling the streets to keep order. If you hit them hard enough, even the most stubborn demonstrators will finally go home.
This is what seems to be happening now. After two weeks of globally reported, supported and honestly felt hope, the country is slipping back into its rut of oppression and forlornness. That's how the world and a third of Iranians see it. Two thirds of the population, however, are delighted that their voice had been heard, that the right guy had won, and that finally normalcy has returned and they can go about their business as usual, earning money for their families and struggling to make ends meet.