Here’s a sentence that I never thought I’d type; the current elections in Iran have made me appreciate the power of twitter. I don’t really want to get into this too much, as my personal experience of the Iranian people getting ready to vote, frankly isn’t that interesting to anyone. I will say, however, it’s worth a few minutes of your timing following the #iranelection search, linked here.
Another view from inside the election is this fascinating photo blog from the streets of Tehran. The followers of the more progressive candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, have taken to wearing green about their person as a sign of their support. It’s also good to see that there are hipsters in Iran, just like we have here. It’s a universal thing, apparently.
One thing you’ll notice about those pictures is the predominance of young people in the crowds. Iran has one of the youngest populations in the Middle East, and it would seem as if they are more politically engaged in this election than ever before. As such, it seems as if Mr. Mousavi has a chance to unseat the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In Iranian elections, there’s no official polling, so there’s no easy way of predicting with any degree of accuracy what is going to happen.
However, Saeed Lalyaz, a respected Iranian political commentator, is quoted as saying that he believed Mousavi now commanded the support of 55-60% of the voting populace. So, there are a few possible outcomes here.
First up, Ahmadinejad could win, fairly and squarely, presumably after a second round runoff. Secondly, he could win after one round; this would almost certainly take some sort of massaging of the voting process. There have been rumors that this would lead to some sort of mass social unrest. This, in turn, could rapidly turn sour. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned that any attempt at a popular revolution, or demonstrations would be crushed. It’s not a massive leap to see how this, in turn, could lead to a Tiananmen Square type of event.
In the event that Mousavi does win, what will this accomplish? Iran has an arcane and complicated system as governance. As well as two elected branches, the parliament and the president, there’s also an Assembly of Experts, which acts as a sort of scrutinizing body, and on top of that there is the Council of Guardians. They act as a filter to make sure that no candidates with ideas contrary to the Islamic revolution make it into any sort of elected office.
At the top, of course, there’s the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni. He’s in charge of the army, and responsible for appointing, among other things, the Justices and the heads of the TV companies. So even if Mousavi does win, any shift in power will have to be seen through this filter.
That being said, it would be an undeniable step forward for the region as a whole. Mousavi’s tone towards the US and Israel, too, has been far less aggressive.
Finally, here’s a link to the English version of the debate between the two main candidates. It’s quite long, but it’s sure worth a watch.