Monday, July 04, 2005

Iran's human face is gone. Hardline vote-riggers have spirited it away

The recent Iranian presidential elections were a triumph for the principle of one man, one vote. And the man with the vote this time, as always, was the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran’s new President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may well be the choice of the urban poor, the anti-sleaze candidate and the favourite of the military. But ultimately, he’s the winner because he’s also the guy who did best with one key demographic — bearded sixtysomething clerics called Ali who enjoy wielding supreme power within theocratic republics.

Even before the first vote was cast, a thousand potential presidential candidates were barred from running by the state’s Guardian Council, itself hand-picked by Ayatollah Khamenei. The two rounds of voting that Iran just held were charades, Potemkin exercises designed to give the outside world the illusion that the Islamic Republic could hold an open election and sustain the lie that its leaders enjoy popular backing.

The television pictures of voters queueing to get to the polls were taken from previous elections, the polling stations themselves were policed by fundamentalist militias, ballot papers were held in reserve to ensure the vote went the prescribed way and the figures eventually announced were manufactured in a fashion that would have brought a tear to the eye of Saddam himself.

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