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Reflecting on Iran's Presidential Election

By       Message Ismael Hossein-zadeh     Permalink
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1. Questions that Beg to be Asked

US and European corporate media, political pundits and "Iran experts" have spent countless hours discussing the June presidential election in Iran. Yet, they have utterly failed to ask a number of central questions that beg to be asked:

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Why did Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main rival of President Ahmadinejad, declare himself the winner while voting was still in progress? Since there are no exit polls in Iran, how could he have known for sure he was the winner when the votes were not yet counted? (According to some accounts he declared victory barely an hour after the polls closed; according to others he did so hours before the polls closed. His own and his campaign's statements show that, in fact, they declared victory before, during and immediately after the voting. For example, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, one of his major campaigners, told BBC News during an interview the day before the Election Day that her husband would score a big, four-to-one, win against Ahmadinejad; and that the only way Ahmadinejad could win would be through fraud. How did she know that?)

How could this premature announcement of victory be explained? Was it because Mr. Mousavi's campaign managers led him to become truly delusional, sincerely believing he could not lose? Or, was it a deliberate preemptive measure to replace Ahmadinejad regardless of who actually won at the ballot box?

And why did Mr. Mousavi declare the election stolen the moment he learned he had actually lost? How did he know it was stolen, except for the fact that the official account contradicted his campaign's wishful projections? For at least three days his claim of "stolen" election remained just that. Even when he was forced to substantiate his allegation, he submitted to the Guardian Council, the body responsible for overseeing the election, a long list of electoral irregularities that, while true, did not constitute a pattern of coordinated or systematic effort at stealing the election [1].

Further, what compelled Mr. Mousavi to go for the jugular--either another election or a "green revolution"--instead of going through the country's legal and institutional channels, which have administered or presided over ten clean, undisputed presidential elections since the 1979 revolution? Knowing that another election was out of the question, he immediately called upon his supporters to take to the streets and start the projected revolution. Why?

It is often argued that Mr. Mousavi's rationale for sidestepping the institutional and legal frameworks governing the electoral process was because he did not trust them. But this argument raises even more questions about his mysterious behavior. He was nominated as a presidential candidate within Iran's electoral laws and procedures. On the basis of those laws and procedures, he was vetted and approved by the Guardian Council, the responsible authority for overseeing the election. The Guardian Council's screening of candidates before they can run for President is often criticized as undemocratic, and therefore objectionable. But that was obviously not a problem for Mr. Mousavi as he went through and came out of the screening process with flying colors. And he ran a highly successful and well-financed (indeed, extravagant) campaign without any legal or institutional obstacles. Why, then, the sudden about face: the abrupt rejection of and rebellion against the country's electoral laws and institutions?

Mr. Mousavi used the term "green revolution" to label his campaign. But color-coded revolutions, as carried out in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics, are synonymous with electoral coups: a scheme of participating in an election process with the intention of not accepting defeat at the ballot box. The question then arises: "Why would there be a 'green revolution' prepared prior to the vote, especially if Mousavi and his supporters were as confident of victory as they claim?" as astutely pointed out by Paul Craig Roberts [2].

2. Electoral Coups as Color-coded Revolutions

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Having mulled over these questions long and hard, I can think of only two interpretations of Mr. Mousavi's assertion of "stolen elections." The charitable interpretation is that he was led by his campaign architects to honestly believe he could not lose. The more likely interpretation, however, is that he colluded with the powerful interests behind his campaign not to accept defeat. Either way, the inescapable conclusion is that contrary to Mr. Mousavi's claim that Ahmadinejad stole the election, it seems more likely that, in fact, it was his own campaign architects who were determined to highjack the election.

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Ismael Hossein-zadeh is a professor of economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of the newly published book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism His Web page is

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