Ahmadinejad after voting in the June presidential elections
In recent days there has been much discussion in
the international media as to whether or not the presidential election in Iran
was a "huge fraud," as the defeated candidates and their supporters claim.
Some people believe that incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad's reelection with 24 million votes is valid and that the majority of the population in rural areas and small towns voted for him. They argue that Ahmadinejad himself comes from a poor family background, and that over the past four years he has shown concern for the poor.
Others, for their part, are using psychological and statistical methods to show that the election results have been manipulated in Ahmadinejad's favor.
Considering the facts and figures, even if we accept that the majority of Iranians did indeed vote for Ahmadinejad as the Guardians Council vetting body claims, and that the election was mathematically and statistically clean, we can still say Ahmadinejad's victory was the result of a big, preplanned scam.
In the run-up to the election, Ahmadinejad claimed on several occasions, especially in TV debates with rival candidates, that the economic situation in the country has improved in recent years despite the global financial meltdown. He even presented statistics and graphs that apparently showed that the inflation rate has gone down since he was elected president and now stands at 15 percent.
By accusing former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and others of corruption, Ahmadinejad sought to present himself as a determined fighter against corruption. In addition, he said that Iran has made great progress during his presidency in many fields, such as the nuclear enrichment program. He said that as a result of his foreign policy, Iran today occupies a "strong and respected" position in the world.
Backed By Lies
In fact those claims were nearly all meaningless. The Iranian economy is in a disastrous state, not only because of the United Nations sanctions, but also Ahmadinejad's flawed economic policies. According to the Iranian Central Bank, the inflation rate is currently about 25 percent, whereas four years ago when Ahmadinejad came into power it was about 10 percent.
The fight against corruption too is nothing more than a rhetorical propaganda device. In the past, Ahmadinejad has on several occasions made sweeping allegations of corruption, but he did not dare mention anyone by name. Then during the election campaign he specifically accused both Rafsanjani, and former parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri. But up till now no one has been brought to trial, let alone convicted.
In addition, according to Transparency International, Iran's corruption ranking has significantly worsened in recent years, from 88th place worldwide in 2005 to 141st in 2008.
The Iranian nuclear program was actually launched years before Ahmadinejad came to power. His only achievement was accelerating the process of uranium enrichment, which led to UN sanctions and international isolation. In this situation, it is nonsense to talk about Iran's "strong and respectable" position in the world.
But if President Ahmadinejad was able to dupe the public with his unfounded claims and win their votes, we must say that his victory was a fraud. That fraud was the product of misinformation by the state media and brainwashing voters by convincing them that Ahmadinejad is a "supporter" of the poor, that he has improved the Iranian economy, and that the country has made great progress in his first term as president, achieving the status of a "superpower."
Specifically, this fraud is the result of the monopoly exerted by the Islamic republic leader over state radio and television, which supported and favored Ahmadinejad and exaggerated his "achievements." It extended to banning dozens of newspapers and arresting several journalists to block the free flow of information.
Glimmer Of Hope
From this point of view, the protests by those who do not acknowledge Ahmadinejad's election victory are legitimate, even if they are a "minority" from the "upper class," as the government claims. The protesters are mostly educated people who reject government propaganda. They know the real state of the economy, they are aware of the fragile position of their country in the world, and they understand the risks of Ahmadinejad serving a second term in office.
Even Ahmadinejad's election victory in 2005 was the result of duplicity. His reformist predecessor Mohammad Khatami received more than 20 million votes in two successive presidential ballots, but many of his planned reforms were subsequently blocked by the conservatives. That failure frustrated Khatami's supporters, and that frustration in turn led to Ahmadinejad's first election victory. In short: Ahmadinejad is in fact the product of fraud.
But we do not need to be sad about that. Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have given a gift to the young Iranian population: an unprecedented political experience.
Over the past 30 years, millions of Iranians have been indoctrinated by school textbooks and the state media to believe the political system in Iran is "democratic" and the role of the supreme leader "crucial" and "positive." Now they have become aware overnight of the shortcomings of the ruling system, the unlimited and unjustified power of the leader, and the urgent need for deep reforms.
Mohammad Reza Kazemi is a broadcaster with RFE/RL's Radio Farda. The views expressed in this commentary are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL
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