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Iranian election...what's so special?!

10 May 2005

The only special thing about this election is, that this will be the first election since 1979 that will have only 30% turnout (it will be even less if there were not the fear factor). This is a drop from 99% in 1980; the huge gap represents how far the regime has alienated itself from people. To understand this election, one must look at the current psychological mood in Iran. Disillusionment runs deep in Iran. People are tired of all the lies, the mistreatments, lack of opportunity, massive inflation and staggering poverty.

There is no enthusiasm for this election in Iran. In public opinion polls, most of the candidates attract around 4 percent. The strongest individual isn‘t a candidate yet, Raffsanjani, the richest candidate and most corrupt, attracts around 13%.

Just recently another regime-backed newspaper, Aftabeh Yazd (The Yazd Sun), confessed that people‘s utter disregard and apathy toward the fake and flashy June elections. The newspaper‘s editorial entitled “A simple but ambiguous step“ states: “While only 44 days remain to the elections, the fervor of the elections in undetectable.“ The editorial continues: “This is while the most well known “candidates“ and probable nominees have presented themselves to the voters and have somewhat communicated their designs as well.“

The irony is that the low turnout will help the hard-liners to stay in power but with a new face to represent them. Europeans are hoping for Rafsanjani, who is pro-foreign investment candidate. My guess is that if Rafsanjani succeeds, he will ask for new round of talks with Europeans and somehow promise them “the world“ to get them off his back and we will go back the business as usual. The way China and Europe have done with Sudan and business activity has increased while genocide is continuing.

There are many discussions now among Iranian activists inside and outside of Iran, some argue to vote for a “real“ reformer like Mr. Bagher Zadeh and Mr. Amir Entazam. However, any candidate has to be approved by the Cleric-dominated Guardian Council and these two reformers will not pass the test. But one argument is that activists should put the pressure (through mass demonstration) on the government to have them approved. Unfortunately, there is not a coherent long-term strategy by real reformers either. Everything in Iran is reactionary, therefore, nothing really gets done. This election will come to pass and it will be bigger news outside of Iran than inside.

Some hope for Ukraine style “velvet revolution“. But the situation in Iran is so different (I can explain this later) and the “velvet revolution” is a long shot. It may happen but not this early. I believe the Bush administration finally is doing it the right way. They are slowly funding the NGO‘s and activist groups. They have already been very successful with Radio Farda, which is now even more popular than Persian BBC. Radio Farda is not only popular among the young; even the activists have a lot of respect for this Radio knowing full well it is funded by Americans!! I wished we had these activities 10 years ago, then we may have already had a “velvet revolution”. Iran could have been Berlin 1989 but in the last 10 year it has become more like China 1989.

Finally, I believe the real problem is EU and how it will handle the negotiation after the election. Iran would have crumbled long time ago, if it was not the wishy-washy attitude of the EU. Most opposition groups have less regard for the EU and totally believe that the EU cares more about doing business with Iran rather that with human rights issues. Believe it or not, most opposition group are hoping that America will keep up its pressure on Iran regarding the human right violations.

I am still optimistic Iran will turn around, but in its own pace!

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