Dot.Demarche

Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

Elections have Consequences

Iran voted today. Apparently heck of a turnout.

Crazy system over there – check out the bbc briefing for details. Given their card-carrying status as a member of the Axis of Evil, it is a suprise to a lot of people that they are – outside of Israel and Turkey – as democratic a country as there is in that bad neighborhood we call the Middle East. (But a shout-out to you, Acil al-Awadi!)

Looks like we don’t know what’s happened yet. Both sides are declaring victory, which suggests that the opposition made a decent showing. In the system over there the elections division is under the control of the president – which may make for interesting recounts. Faster than Minnesota’s, I’ll bet. Authoritarianism has its advantages.

Three possibilities:

Ahmadinejad wins, decisively. That would be a vindication of his policies of confrontation with the West, and probably a recipe for continuation of the status quo. Despite that, though, there appears to have been a record turnout and a high degree of interest,

It’s exceptionally close – or perceived to be so – then the legitimacy of the election will be called into question. The huge numbers who supported Moussavi – despite the state apparati arrayed against them – will be incensed. Signs of tampering in elections were core to the series of Color Revolutions, and if Moussavi’s voters think they were robbed, the mass demonstrations that impressed the world recently could escalate.

Enough of a win for Moussavi that he goes on to a final round and then takes the presidency would, I think, make for a moderate rapprochement. The sanctions that Ahmadinejad has brought on the country have angered a large swatch of the country, and some lightening of them will be core to a new administration. However, given the ultimate authority held by Ayatollah Khamenei, it would be unlikely that a true sea change could occur. Evolutionary change would still be very welcome.

A lot of frustration in Iran, a lot of repression. Given the right circumstances a velvet revolution is not impossible. From the outside – and with Iran, I believe even country experts are on the outside – authoritarian regimes can shift from iron to glass in a moment. Fingers crossed.

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