Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran election

One country I have yet to visit that I really want to visit is Iran. And the recent election, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was "reelected" in a landslide only makes me want to visit even more.

Iran has a unique political system with an elected secular component and a mullah-based component, led by Iran’s "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which dominates the elected side. It's a weird combination and balance of the democratic and the theocratic. Now the balance is out of whack and what's left is just weird.

The protests over the weekend calling for an investigation into potentially fixed results indicates that Iranians, the ones that live in Tehran anyways, are not satisfied to be ruled against their will be parochial religious conservatives. Latest news is that opposition leaders are banned from holding rallys and the leaders are under house arrest. It seems unlikely that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was "reelected"
with a 62% margin even in the hometown of the oppistion leader.

We can be cynical around here about elections but there are still parts of the world where people feel elections really mean something and that they have real impacts on their lives. The import attached to elections results can be huge because so much is at stake. Rather than contests between small variations of public policy or the cults of personality-based elections we see around here, in countries like Iran elections are battles of fundamental ideals and ideas. And people care. At least, they will care as long as they feel they have a chance to make a difference.

The situation in Iran is complex. Even the media-described "liberal" factions are, by our standards, more conservative than the average Canadian would feel comfortable with. I've read no calls for the dismantling of the religious-dominated system, only calls for the system to live up to what it has promised. It reminds a bit of the late 80s when Gorbachev called for a reform of the Communist state, not for up-ending it.

This is a story worth following.

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