Saturday, June 18, 2005

Iranian spring, part 4 

The polls closed in Iran amidst reports of high voter turnout. Just like the Soviet grain statistics, the official figures will tell us little - the ruling mullahs have an interest in inflating the figures to demonstrate that the regime and the political system enjoy broad legitimacy. The foreign media will be of little help here; as Regime Change Iran reminds us,
the international media in Iran for the election is estimated between 70 and 200 foreign journalists. Opposition leaders claim that each journalist is required to have a government minder present with them. They also report that these journalists do not have the freedom to visit anywhere they choose. So the international media is reporting from government designated polling places.

In previous elections, there have been news reports that the government deliberately made the number of polling places in the neighborhood so small that it creates larger crowds, creating a photo opportunity for the journalists.

In other cases the regime has also been reported to have bus loads of people with fake ids traveling from location to location to increase the size of the turnouts at these photo-op polling places.
For all their rugged cynicism, inborn skepticism and distrust of authority, deep down journalists are so used to freedom, openness and transparency of their own Western societies that Potemkin villages and Potemkin elections can all too often fool them (hence we get pearlers such as this 2002 effort from ABC's David Wright: "Seven years ago, when the last referendum took place, Saddam Hussein won 99.96 percent of the vote. Of course, it is impossible to say whether that's a true measure of the Iraqi people's feelings.").

Initial reports suggest a 24 June run-off election, as neither of the top two candidates, Rafsanjani or Mostafa Moin, has managed to reach 50% of the vote.


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