No sooner had incumbent Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared himself victorious in last Friday’s election, his challenger, Mir Hossein Moussavi cried “foul” at the results of the balloting which gave Ahmadinejad 62.5 % of the total vote. Mousavi, a former Iranian president during the 1980’s and who ran under a campaign of economic and social reform, claimed that many election precincts were “managed by untrustworthy monitors”, and many of his supporters rioted in the streets of major cities afterwards.
Since foreign observers were banned from the actual balloting, there’s no telling what really went on, and many people who stood in long lines for hours at polling stations; and even had their thumb ink dyed when they did get to vote, may have had their vote discarded during the actual counting period once the polls closed. An amazing 85% of the country’s eligible voters went to the polls in an election which had culminated weeks of intense campaigning by supporters of both candidates in a contest that was really a referendum on Ahmadinejad’s handling of the country’s economy, now experiencing 30% inflation and more than 17% “official” unemployment. Many Mousavi supporters were dissatisfied young Iranians, especially academics who can’t find decent jobs after completing university studies.
Ahmadinejad gave one of his usual long victory speeches on Saturday, and gave an even longer one on Sunday during a news conference where he compared the rioting to disturbances that occur “after a football match”. Football match indeed! The streets of Teheran were almost turned into a battle ground as many young protesters battled police and paramilitary personnel, and numerous vehicles and shops were set ablaze. Many of the protestors were arrested, and it was even rumored that Moussavi himself has been detained for questioning for his possible part in the rioting (and may even be under arrest). The protests, according to many observers, were nothing less than many peoples’ dissatisfaction with the way the country has been run under Ahmadinejad, and how Iran has become increasingly isolated by international sanctions due to the ongoing nuclear program; including Ahmadinejad’s tirades against Israel and his denial of the Holocaust.
The results of the election come to no surprise with Israeli leaders, and many even hoped that Ahmadinejad would win in order to continue international pressure against Iran, and especially it’s missile and nuclear enrichment program which is now said to have progressed far enough to have enough enriched uranium and plutonium for at least one if not two nuclear bombs. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to give a speech to the country Sunday night, which is said to be a response to both U.S. President Obama’s speech in Cairo, as well as the aftermath of the Iranian elections. Israel has been warned by the Obama administration not to try to “go at it alone” to take out Iran’s nuclear capability; and the country’s leadership is now fully aware that Israel’s current relations with the USA are a far cry from what they were during the Bush administration.
All in all, however, the violent protests which have occurred in many parts of Iran following the election may wind up being a “consolation prize” for Mr. Mousavi and his followers; and are an indication that all is not well in the country. There appears to be a strong “grass roots” movement that could decide it’s had enough with people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs.
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