June 24, 2009

Iran : Did you really think this was a real revolution?

A little bit about the Iranian election and subsequent protests... I think the election was fraud. The stupid thing is that it was unnecessary, Ahmadinejad would have won anyway. Stratfor has a very nice analysis piece on this and the framework I've been using is that Tehran is to Iran and Austin is to Texas. Just as Austin tends to be more progressive than the rest of the State, Tehran tends to be more progressive (relatively speaking) than the rest of Iran.

In the global discussion last week outside Iran, there was a great deal of confusion about basic facts. For example, it is said that the urban-rural distinction in Iran is not critical any longer because according to the United Nations, 68 percent of Iranians are urbanized. This is an important point because it implies Iran is homogeneous and the demonstrators representative of the country. The problem is the Iranian definition of urban — and this is quite common around the world — includes very small communities (some with only a few thousand people) as “urban.” But the social difference between someone living in a town with 10,000 people and someone living in Tehran is the difference between someone living in Bastrop, Texas and someone living in New York. We can assure you that that difference is not only vast, but that most of the good people of Bastrop and the fine people of New York would probably not see the world the same way. The failure to understand the dramatic diversity of Iranian society led observers to assume that students at Iran’s elite university somehow spoke for the rest of the country.

Could these protests evolve? Absolutely. But that would require the various factions to cooperate and not all of them share common goals (they run the gamut from preserving to ending the Islamic Republic with the latter being very small). The one commonality between the groups is their faith in Iranian democracy... they get to vote and elect their leaders just as we do and it's a cherished right that cuts across all classes.

Which makes me think about the 04 cycle here in the US. A few days before the election, I had a conversation with a friend who thought people would be marching in the streets if Kerry didn't win. I said that was silly and wouldn't happen even if Bush won. Her point was that the people will rise up against a stolen election. In established democracies where the franchise is taken seriously, an egregious theft won't be tolerated which is why there weren't mass protests in the wake of Apocalypse Bush, Redux. You CAN steal an election that's close and you won't run the risk of revolution.

Iran is a little trickier because there was election fraud but the general consensus is that it Ahmadinejad would have won without it (as a side note, anyone else think someone went a little overboard thinking it would be good to run up the score?). It's the egregiousness of the fraud that drives the protests and it's the fact that he would have won anyway that will, IMHO, drive them to fail as a broad change agent in Iran. However this works out, these will be the first firm seeds of doubt in the theocracy and from those seeds something great could very well grow.

Posted by mcblogger at June 24, 2009 03:33 PM

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One minor quibble: Even if the government didn't commit fraud during the actual vote counting, the election still would have been a sham (as with all Iranian elections in recent years). The Guardian Council has veto power over which candidates can run. That's why Ahmadinejad won in 2005, because all credible reformist candidates were disqualified (please don't call Rafsanjani reformist).

Posted by: Kedron Touvell [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2009 01:17 PM

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