The actual results of the 2009 presidential elections in Iran may never be known factually. But the actual tallies of the votes cast may have never had anything to do with anything in the first place.
This does not mean that, in the aftermath of the announcement of the election results, the outrage displayed on the streets by the supporters of the reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, America’s favorite horse in the race, does not indicate real hurt. Those Americans who, to this day, are still bitter about the non-election of Al Gore in the 2000 debacle, can get an idea of the Iranians’ sense of betrayal if they take their outrage at the clearly stolen outcome in 2000 and intensify it by a factor of … oh, about a million.
At least in the American version in 2000, they took their merry time to go through a totally legalistic looking, convoluted process to deny Al Gore his victory at the polls.
In the Iranian version, in contrast, they didn’t bother with realistic looking anything: not realistic final numbers nor a realistic looking process; opposition candidates’ campaigners had limited or no access to major transit points in the ballot boxes’ moves and in the ballot-counting process, and quite honestly, the first-round ‘landslide’ looks particularly unrealistic. They must be in some kind of hurry for something, since a run-off second round would have finalized everything by the last week of June, regardless. But, no; they just took it clean, and took it in the least amount of time possible.
Observers sympathetic with Ahmadinejad will definitely object that surely he had a very solid support base, especially in the rural areas (about 32 per cent of the population) and among the poor and the lower working classes, particularly in smaller cities and towns, and had a respectable enough following even in the big cities; clearly the more numerous classes were on his side. Ahmadinejad’s support base, further, is much more politically active and more positively inspired by Ahmadinejad’s politics, whereas Mousavi supporters were not so much inspired positively by their candidate’s charisma or oratory skills (both entirely lacking) or concrete programs (totally missing), as they were motivated by their dislike for Ahmadinejad.
Stolen or not, these ‘elections’ produced what the officialdom of Iran has decided to present to the world as their spokesperson and part director of the system.
Besides allegations of vote rigging, there are allegations of a coup d’état, as well. Ebrahim Yazdi, a former politician in the first revolutionary interim government, and currently secretary-general of Nehzate Azadi, or Freedom Movement, has declared it a coup, and one can see clearly the reasons for such allegations.
Yet, here too, there is a history to remember; the history of skin-shedding that this theocracy has witnessed. An early coup d’état that took place in the life of the Islamic Republic occurred in June 1981 with the ‘impeachment’ of Banisadr, the first post-revolution president, by the parliament at Khomeini’s instigation; Banisadr went underground and eventually escaped from Iran, and currently lives in France. Later, in April 1982 there was a coup against Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, a close aid to Khomeini during his exile in France, and a foreign minister; he was accused of plotting to kill Khomeini and summarily executed.
There was also a famous coup against Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, one-time designated successor to Grand Ayatollah Khomeini for the position of Supreme Leader. Montazeri had both revolutionary and impeccable religious credentials (as a Grand Ayatollah, which is like a PhD in the field). Given his supremely high qualifications, he was causing constant headaches for the heads of the theocratic setup. In an interview published in Keyhan, “in early 1989, [Montazeri] criticized Khomeini in language that is said to have sealed “his political fate”:
“The denial of people’s rights, injustice and disregard for the revolution’s true values have delivered the most severe blows against the revolution. Before any [post-war] reconstruction, there must first be a political and ideological reconstruction . . . This is something that the people expect of a leader.”
Further, when after the end of the Iran-Iraq War, a vast wave of rushed political executions engulfed Iran’s political prison houses, Montazeri was among the most high-ranking critics of these mass killings. The Wikipedia entry for him explains further:
“Still worse was the publication abroad and broadcast on BBC of [Montazeri’s] letters condemning post-war wave of executions in March . Montazeri also criticized Khomeini’s fatwa ordering the killing of author Salman Rushdie, saying: “People in the world are getting the idea that our business in Iran is just murdering people.”
By the end of March 1989, Khomeini had heard enough, and declared that Montazeri had ‘resigned’ from his position. Montazeri went off graciously, asking his supporters to not utter a word in his support. Khamenei, at the time a mid-ranking Hojatoleslam (equivalent of an undergrad degree), was speedily promoted in religious ranks to an Ayatollah so as to qualify him for the position of vali-e faqih (guardian jurist), and that’s how the current Supreme Leader Khamenei got to be supreme.
We can conclude, then, that skin shedding, metamorphosis, periodical transformations and adaptations to the perceived conditions in the world are a systemic characteristic of the rulers in the Iranian theocracy.
Obviously, Mr. Mousavi himself had enjoyed the position of recipient-at-the-better-end of past coups; which must help him see one pulled against him. Not that you need prior knowledge, but it may assist in seeing the tragedy. It may be too glib to say, “What swings around can hit you in the face”, so I probably shouldn’t say it.
The true silver lining of this tragedy is for the people of Iran. These ‘elections’ should incontrovertibly demonstrate, to anybody with political eyes to see, that no matter how oppressively anti-democratic an electoral setup, the establishment is still capable of raising people’s hopes for ‘change’ (no matter how miniscule and pathetic), and that it still has the power to fool people and to draw them into a futile act; only to slap them in the face. So, now the people are (hopefully) more likely to put their political hopes in more effective moves in the future.
The disappointment felt by Mousavi supporters cannot be imagined. It is so much more acute than expected, exactly because so little was expected. If, as a homeless person on the side of the street, you ask people to give you a thousand dollars, clearly (as the British say) you’re taking the piss, and you don’t really expect anything to happen. But, if you ask for a single dollar from a person who clearly can afford it, yet they not only not just keep walking, but turn around instead and spit and insult you in your face, then all bets on politeness are off.
Here was Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a man who is as much a figurehead of the regime as any, and here were these people willing to go along with this insult of a ‘choice’ within a highly anti-democratic setup, and yet even the presidency of one of their own could not to be tolerated by the deeply conservative establishment. The Iranian people have been forced, yet again, to admit painfully that they clearly cannot call the theocratic rule over them anything other than an absolute dictatorship.
To have witnessed and tasted the feel of some ‘openness’ in the political atmosphere during the campaign weeks, to have participated in mass debates in the streets, in the squares, to have felt that their votes would really count and that they could force some ‘change’, to have held impromptu rallies and expressed themselves freely in hopes of persuading others, all of which sent them to euphorically high places, and THEN to have had their hopes crushed in a matter of hours after the closing of polling stations, and in such blatant, in your face, take it or stick it fashion … that must be a huge disappointment to bear. No wonder then that street protests were so swift to come about.
How the government handles the aftermath of these elections will be a matter of deep concern for a large number of people for some time to come.
For now, the Iranian establishment has spoken unambiguously for the continuation of the Ahmadinejad presidency. So, welcome to four more years of back and forth on ‘to bomb or not to bomb’, four more years of sanctions, talk of more severe sanctions, and reports of covert ops and infiltrations, four more years of seeing Ahmadinejad palling around with Chavez, waxing philosophical about Bolivarian Socialism and imprisoning socialists at home; four more years of empty promises for the poor, whose socio-economic infrastructure is eroded further and deeper daily as they are handed sacks of potatoes to avert starvation. And, painfully, four more years of absolute and utter lies, spread by the Israelis, the neoconservatives and their liberal colleagues regarding Iran’s ‘threat’.
REZA FIYOUZAT can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org