Jun 22, 2009

Democracy, Middle East Style

Todd Strandberg
By Todd Strandberg

Iran's Interior Ministry announced Saturday that hard-line incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won 63.29% of the vote in the country's presidential election—hooray, a landslide. But there is one problem: Right before the election, the pro-reform candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, had a huge lead in opinion polls.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told tens of thousands of people at a Friday prayer service at Tehran University that the balloting had not been rigged, and he sided with Ahmadinejad. If you can't trust the words of a holy man, who can you trust?

Actually, 63 percent is a rather dismal showing for the head of one of George W. Bush's “axis of evil" nations. The other two members, Iraq and North Korea, have done much better. Before being ousted by American-led forces, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein won 100 percent of votes in a 2002 referendum for a new term in office. The following year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il also received 100 percent support when the Supreme People's Assembly voted him back in office. Just this March, Kim was re-elected with yet another 100 percent of the vote.

Perhaps my western bias is blinding me from seeing how Ahmadinejad could pull out such a stunning upset. The fact that there has been massive rioting in the streets of Iran tells me that a large number of people in Iran expected Hossein Mousavi to win. Here are some red flags that help raise suspicion.
  • The election was run totally by the Interior Ministry. There were no independent election observers in Iran.
  • Just before voting ended, text-messaging and pro-Mousavi websites were blocked.
  • Ahmadinejad was declared the winner three hours before some of the polls closed.
  • All of the ballots were paper. It would be have been impossible to announce a definitive result so soon after the polls closed.
  • According to official figures, Ahmadinejad handily beat Mousavi in Mousavi's hometown of Tabriz — a shocking result, given the candidate's popularity in his own region.
  • Ahmadinejad beat Mousavi in the big cities, even though Iran's very limited polling and anecdotal evidence indicate that Mousavi is far more popular than the President in cities.
  • The number of votes counted in seventy districts was higher than the population in those districts.
  • Iran's economy is a mess, and people are unhappy about a raft of everyday issues, from the price of food to joblessness.
The election in Iran was obviously a sham. What we have here is another demonstration of the demonic arrogance that comes with political power. If Ahmadinejad were a sane man, he would have settled for a narrow margin of victory. Because all autocratic rulers typically have the nature of Satan, he chose to give himself the vast majority of the vote.

I am very encouraged by how the Internet has proven to be a useful tool by the protesters. The Iranian government has completely failed in its effort to block images and reports from being posted and accessed on social networking sites.

Three weeks after his landmark address in Cairo, President Barack Obama finds himself in a bit of conundrum. Having just reached out to Ahmadinejad, Obama now finds himself in danger of legitimizing a government that is clearly based on fraud. If he endorses the opposition, the Iranian hardliners will point to it as the “Great Satan” meddling in Iran’s internal affairs.

Little would change if Mir Hossein Mousavi were to emerge as the winner of this power struggle. The Supreme Leader picks all the candidates, so only conservative and like-minded Islamic fundamentalists can win office. Mousavi may be called the pro-reform candidate, but he still supports Iran's nuclear program and the policy of wiping Israel off the map.

The election crisis could be a huge boom for Bible prophecy. If Ahmadinejad manages to stay in power, he will be looking to distract the Iranian population away from domestic troubles. Few people realize that Ahmadinejad has an apocalyptic death wish where he would gladly sacrifice the lives of his fellow citizens to bring about the return of the fabled Twelfth Imam. With thousands of demonstrators marching in the street with signs that read “Down with the Dictator,” he has less reason to be hesitant.

Related News

Crackdown On New Street Protests Over Iran Election Results - ForexTV.com
Iran Tense After Police, Protesters Clash - AP
Protesters Return to Tehran Streets - Washington Post
EU presidency asks members to summon Iran's envoys - Reuters