Iran's 2009 Presidential election promised to be interesting for one thing: to see how much cheating the clerics who actually run Iran would commit to block the reform-minded forces from winning.
Let's try to note a few things first:
- The incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been unpopular during his term of office (I'm tempted to use adverbs like "monstrously" or "hideously" before the word "unpopular", but that would be rude). His administration has been dogged by charges of corruption, by inability to deal with the current global recession, and by various controversial statements that - if you're being charitable - bordered on Holocaust Denial and outright elimination of Israel.
- Iran's election isn't as open as they claim: all candidates have to be approved by an oversight committee -
The Guardians of the Universesorry Guardian Council - basically meaning the candidates have to kiss the ring of the Ayatollah just to even get the right to step outside their house. While I can gripe about how candidates have to suck up to our two established parties here in the U.S., at least they aren't forced to suck up to a non-elected dictator who rules for life and answers to no one (and despite the rhetoric, Limbaugh doesn't have *that* much pull).
- For all I'm reading on how Iran holds it's elections, I see no method of independent review and oversight to ensure fair results: all the counting is done by an election commission that answers to - you guessed it - a non-elected dictator who rules for life and answers to no one.
The election's done, and the shouting is just switching to bonfires and street riots. The reform candidate Mousavi is claiming voter fraud: and interestingly there's already a damn good chart on Sullivan's blog showing just how sick the election results are proving. My God. The chart goes in a STRAIGHT LINE. Incoming election results DON'T work like that: they peak and valley, up and down, they fluctuate as the results differ from region to region as they report in. I took classes on statistics and research methods for my journalism and library science degrees: polling results are organic, they ebb and flow. A straight line like that can only occur through direct interference with the numbers: a straight line is a FRAKKING ALGEBRA EQUATION. They're not even trying properly to fake it.
C'mon. They're giving a guy like Ahmadinejad who couldn't consistently break 50 percent in the pre-election polls (the only polling service that gave Ahmad-whateva anything close to that was some outfit called Alef, which I just noticed has ties to Iran's official broadcasting service: nearly every other polling service was showing close wins either way but mostly to Mousavi) a 69 to 28 percent victory? Anything over 52 percent and we're talking fishy numbers here. He's getting 69 percent? Obama didn't get 69 percent. Reagan in 1984 didn't get 69 percent of the popular vote, for God's sake, and that was one of the biggest butt stomping election wins in American history.
I have just one question for the Ayatollah: if everything happens by the Will of Allah... Why did you have to cheat? I just have one other thing to say to the Ayatollah: Congratulations. You are now just like the Shah of Iran that your dad drove out of power. Enjoy.
Sullivan's explanation about why the Ayatollah and his lackeys cheated is the simplest: the clerics panicked. People who enjoy the status quo always do.
And now it's on to an easier bigger, and even nastier, question: does the Iranian military enjoy the status quo enough to roll in the tanks and squash the rioters? Or will enough officers in the military see an opportunity here, to end an unpopular theocracy and broker a peaceful transition of power from the clerics to honestly-elected officials? Because we've seen this film before: that time, it didn't have a happy ending...
UPDATE: Keep reading Sullivan. He's as obsessed about this as I am, and he's got better sources of information.
On the bad news side, there's reports of deaths in the streets now. Mousavi apparently under house arrest. On the good news side, Sullivan's most current update suggests people have been protesting well into 4 a.m. Iran-time. The Iranian people are NOT backing down on this yet. Gods, I hate this waiting. It'd be nice to be able to do something to help, other than just cheerlead from the keyboard. But for all this can affect other nations, this is an internal affair: there's nothing we can do to get our government to anything to help the people of Iran. The best we can hope for is that enough cops, enough soldiers realize the Ayatollah's days are numbered...
UPDATE II: Mousavi not under house arrest (for now), violence has gotten worse for both sides, with reports of college dorms getting shot up and students and professors disappearing. For the most part, the army and official police are staying out of the fight. The real bloodshed is being spilled by some sort of auxiliary security force called Basij, with additional reports that Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon being bussed in for out-of-town muscle (I immediately thought of Hessians when I heard about that). There's still too much unresolved and up in the air. If you're seeing this, Keep reading Sullivan (and yes Cole he's sliding into poetry readings: so what, I'm tempted to break out some e.e. cummings before too long!).