June 12, 2009


As Iran Votes, Talk of a Sea Change (ROBERT F. WORTH, 6/12/09, NY Times)

Iranians went to the polls Friday to elect a new president after an unusually intense campaign which saw the hard-line incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seemingly thrown onto the defensive. Opposition leaders said they expected a huge turnout, with many reformists who sat out the last vote in 2005 saying they will take part this time.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main opponent is Mir Hussein Moussavi, a moderate who has mobilized huge crowds of his backers in Tehran and other large cities. [...]

Less than two months ago, it was widely assumed here and in the West that Mr. Ahmadinejad would coast to another victory. Many of the reformists who sat out the vote in 2005 seemed dejected and unlikely to raise a strong challenge.

By Friday, that picture had been transformed. A vast opposition movement has arisen, flooding the streets of Iran’s major cities with cheering, green-clad supporters of Mr. Moussavi. Mr. Ahmadinejad has hurled extraordinary accusations at some of the Islamic republic’s founding figures, but the tactic has served to unify a diverse and passionate body of opponents of his populist economic policies and confrontational approach to the West.

Some Iranians believe that the unruly democratic energies unleashed over the past few weeks could affect this country’s politics no matter who wins. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s radical policies and personal attacks, they say, have galvanized powerful adversaries who will use his own accusations of corruption and mismanagement against him. Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say in affairs of state and prefers to avoid open conflict, may force Mr. Ahmadinejad to steer a more moderate course if he is re-elected.

“The elite will not let go of Ahmadinejad’s neck” if he wins, said Muhammad Atrianfar, a journalist and former government official who supports Mr. Moussavi. “The official institutions will be in conflict with him, including the Parliament.”

...because the reformists, with our mistaken encouragement, sat out last time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 12, 2009 6:01 AM
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