Throwing the vote in Iran

BY BEAU ELLIOT | JUNE 16, 2009 7:11 AM

What if they threw an election and everybody came? Well, nearly everybody — 85 percent, according to some reports.

And what if, when the government announced the results, millions and millions of people cried foul and said the election had, indeed, been thrown.

Sounds like Florida in 2000 or Ohio in 2004, you say. Well, that’s what you’d say if you were some of my friends — but then, they drink and smoke and generally have a good time, so they’re quite obviously not cut out for this postmodern PC Nanny Society. Probably you shouldn’t emulate them.

But no, we’re not talking Florida 2000 or Ohio 2004 here, as messy — to use the polite word — as those elections were. (Who can forget the Brooks Brothers riot? Ah, those were the days. And if you’re too young to remember the Brooks Brothers riot, just Google it. It’s easily two or three barrels of laughs. And they say Republicans aren’t funny.)

No, we’re talking Iran here, of course. That country recently held a presidential election, as you probably know unless you’re one of those attention is breathlessly focused on the Beatles’ upcoming reunion tour, and the rather surprising result — again, the polite term — sent many thousands of angry Iranians into the streets crying fraud, the large majority of whom were supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Those results? As reported by Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli on June 13: There were 39,165,191 votes; current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election with 24,527,516 (62.63 percent). Mousavi was second with 13,216,411 votes (33.75 percent), Mehdi Karroubi received 333,635 votes (0.85 percent), and Mohsen Rezaei garnered 678,240 votes (1.73 percent).

The New York Times, in a house editorial published Monday, labeled the results fraud, and Michigan Professor Juan Cole, an expert on the region, writes that the election was stolen (@ Informed Comment).

How surprising were the results? Cole points out (as did my colleague Dean Treftz in these pages on Monday) that Ahmadinejad won the capital of Azerbaijan province with 57 percent of the votes.

What’s rather mindboggling is that Mousavi is an Azeri from that province and is very popular there. It’s as if George W. Bush had beaten Barack Obama in Chicago in 2008. Cole writes: “So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidates who hailed from that province.”

In addition, the Times notes that Ahmadinejad also won the hometowns of Karroubi and Rezaei, and as Cole points out, Karroubi is popular in that western part of Iran and took 17 percent of the 2005 first-round vote, so it’s surprising (there’s that word again) he received under 1 percent this time around.

And another thing: According to many sources, the Iranian Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days before it certifies the vote; in this election, it did so immediately, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei approved the vote.

If all that doesn’t sound fishy to you, you’ve probably never baited a hook. (Yes, since you ask, I have baited many hooks. In fact, I baited the hook when Pieta Brown caught her first fish, for what that’s worth.)

In any case, it sounded fishy enough to Iranians that hundreds of thousands of them marched through the streets of Tehran on Monday protesting the so-called election.

It all makes Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 seem like child’s play. Which, recalling the Brooks Brothers riot, it pretty much was.

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