I’ve been following the coverage of the Iranian election along with the ensuing fallout. Like most anyone else writing about this topic, I’m just not sure what we are witnessing here. It is possible that Ahmadinejad actually won fair and square. The protests seem to be confined mainly to the cities (especially Tehran) and Ahmadinejad’s base of support was predominantly rural. Are the protests a sort of bourgeois reaction against the will of the broader population? After all there were debates, there was media coverage, people in Iran were fairly informed about the election. All the same Iran still has an awful lot of authoritarian structures that “manage” the democratic process – though in fairness the British parliamentary system evolved out of a fairly authoritarian/elitist structure too.
It’s important to remember that Mousavi hasn’t exactly been an angel in his political life – he’s probably preferred in the West by virtue of the fact that he is the Not Ahmadinejad candidate – I don’t know what the Iranian image of Mousavi is though it is almost certainly more detailed than that. I find it hard to believe that Ahmadinejad won though because the polls weren’t going in that direction. I think at a minimum most were expecting that Ahmadinejad would be facing a run-off election. So what are we seeing? Was this a most ham-fisted attempt to steal an election by someone either in the government or the military? Is this actually what the people want?