The Terhan Spring?

In Foreign Affairs, nukes, politics on June 13, 2009 by Editor Z

Following at least two weeks of anticipation in what appeared to be a narrowing race between hard line conservative Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former Iranian Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, as well as two other candidates for the Presidency, results have come forth and the Grand Leader of Iran has declared Ahmadinejad the winner. And not just a winner but a winner with a LBJ Barry Goldwater style landslide with Ahmadenijad garnering a reported 62% of the vote. This despite a larger voter turnout of about 80% of eligible voters.

Mousavi and his supporters, mostly youth, well-educated, urbanites claim the results were rigged by Ahmadenijad and the conservative establishment. In the wake of the election, unrest has broken out, despite the demands of the Grand leader. There have been reported fires and clashes between masses of pro-Mousavi demonstrators and security forces.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner Saturday of an election that pitted the conservative establishment against candidate with broad backing from the country’s youth. Riot police attacked opposition supporters, beating them with clubs and smashing cars.

A statement from Mousavi posted on his Web site condemned what he described as the “manipulation” of election results.

Demonstrators wearing the trademark green color of Mir Hossein Mousavi chanted slogans condemning the results that gave 62.6 percent of the vote to Ahmadinejad. Protesters set fire to tires outside the Interior Ministry in the most serious unrest in Tehran in a decade.

Witnesses also said a commercial bank elsewhere in the city was set on fire.

Police attacked the demonstrators near the Interior Ministry, where the election results were announced, beating them with clubs and smashing cars. Police also moved to disperse any large gatherings of people around the city.

An Associated Press photographer saw a plainclothes security official beating a woman with his truncheon.

In another main street of Tehran some 300 young people blocked the avenue by forming a human chain chanted “Ahmadi, shame on you. Leave the government alone.”

Meanwhile the Ayotollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of Iran who is the position with the most power in the Islamic Republic, has thrown his support enthusiastically towards Ahmadinejad. He denounced disruptions and protests, and all ‘provocative and ill-wishing moves’. Some reports earlier even indicated that Mousavi was barricaded in his house and prevented from leaving.

Khordad 22nd elections set a new record in the long history of Iranian elections. Participation of more than eighty percent in the elections and the 24 million vote to the president-elect is a real festival which by the favor of God could guarantee the progress, security and enduring enthusiasm in the country. Yesterday you proved that Iran thank to the Islamic, revolutionary slogans and values even thirty years after the inception of religious democracy in the country, is more alive and enthusiastic than ever and ensures friends and enemies that it would continue its bright way.

Modest towards the will and faith of you dear people, I congratulated the great accomplishment6 to Hazrat Valiollah Azam, to soul of Imam Khomeini and to every one of the people. I urge all people to cherish the favor of God and offer gratitude to the all-wise, all-knowing God.

Enemies would apparently seek to ruin the sweetness of the event through some provocations. I advise all people, especially the dear youths who were the liveliest players in the enthusiastic event, to keep vigilance. Saturdays after elections must always be day of affection and patience. Either supporters of the elected candidate or supporters of other respected candidates must avoid any provocative and ill wishing moves. The president-elect is the president of all Iranian people; every one including the rivals of yesterday must unanimously support and help him. No doubt, this is another Divine test which could attract God’s blessing if passed successful.

Though laying the foundation of a better framework for relations between the U.S and Iran is something inevitably rife with challenges and tensions, it no doubt would have been easier with someone without the bellicosity and adherence to the most jacobinical elements of Iranian politics as Ahmadinejad. So in the end it is the hardliners and neocons who have won the day.

Little doubt that this vote was fixed by the Clerics who are the real power players in Iran and seem steadfast in preserving thirty years of practice as an Islamic republic and a policy of hostility between the West (the U.S partically) and Iran. If the numbers of 80% of eligable Iranian voters emerging to cast a ballot is accurate, it is hard to believe that with high inflation and a terrible economy in that nation, that that many people would come out and support the status quo with such zeal. It will be interesting to see from here forth how Amhadinejad will conduct himself. With such a large margin of ‘victory’ Ahmadinejad like any leader will feel emboldened to continue on the path which he has put his country along. He also no doubt knows that the power structure of the clerics and their animosity towards the west have his back.

However the demonstrations that have followed and the enthusiasm so many have shown for his rival candidate, the bedlham that has followed with the eyes of the world watching, and the fact that the majority of the country is so young and have a yearning to open up with the west; Ahmadinejad could try and manuever a bit more tactfully to appease or at least quell his critics. However given his penchant for pugnacity and inclination towards provocative rhetoric, any dramatic moves in this direction at least from the vantage point of now appear unlikely.

One thing about this whole campaign, the west and the world knows that although the harsh rhetoric, militant attitudes, and authority of the old order remains strong and prevalent, there is a bubbling underneath of resentment and a thirst for reform in some corners of the country. It may not be a victory and it never was going to be an overnight transformation from a theocratic pan Islamic country to a bastion of democracy eager to shed its nuclear ambitions, but this very well could be a sort of mini Prague Spring, where those railing against the entrenched forces may not prevail in the short term, but end up displaying to the world that despite the force exercised by those in power, there is a desire to chart a new course.

Update (4:17pm/ ET)- Reports indicate that the election results show that Mousavi lost his hometown in the votes. One U.S offical meanwhile says the election results seem to be well less than legitimate.

Update (6/14/09, 8:09AM/ET)- According to Andrew Sullivan, Amhmadinejad’s own election monitoring commission deems the election results invalid.


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