Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Eve of Iran's Historic Election

Since the image we get of Iran in the states is usually of some kind of Saudi Arabia-meets-North Korea, I think it'd be appropriate to show that the country's a little more complicated than that. For example, they're about to have a thriving election that's expected to be a nail-biter.

The Telegraph reports:

This election is the most open contest since Iran's revolutionary regime seized power 30 years ago.

For the first time, there is a real chance of a sitting president suffering defeat at the ballot box, an outcome that would be a political earthquake with no precedent anywhere in the Middle East.

Until a few weeks ago, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the clear favourite to win another four years in power. His three predecessors had all achieved re-election and served two terms.

Moreover, Mr Ahmadinejad seemed to have every political advantage, including the crucial support of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and all the benefits of incumbency, ranging from the official media's lavish praise to control of the government machine.

His most popular opponent, Mohammed Khatami, the former president, had given him an unexpected bonus by abandoning the race for the presidency.

Yet the campaign's final weeks have changed everything. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, has emerged as the president's leading challenger.

Mr Mousavi has managed to tap a well of discontent over the hardships inflicted by Iran's stagnant economy and crushing levels of unemployment. Televised debates have allowed him to attack Mr Ahmadinejad directly and appeal to the country's youthful electorate.

If what we're seeing here doesn't result in great change at the ballot box, it may just result in great change in the streets.