A People Divided in a Polarizing Country
Today it was officially confirmed that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won reelection in the Islamic Republic of Iran by a landslide. His main rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, had a meager 33.75 percent of the vote, compared to 62.63 percent for the incumbent Ahmadinejad. The turnout for this election is said to be at an unprecedented 85% of the eligible population.
Despite this Mousavi says he “personally strongly protest[s] the many obvious violations and I’m warning I will not surrender to this dangerous charade,” claiming in what amounts to a threat that ”The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardize the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny.” (Aljazeera)
The results of this election may come as a surprise to many in the West who for the past week have heard reports of overwhelming support for Mousavi and predictions that this may be the most hotly contended race in Iran since the Islamic Revolution. The rhetoric in Iran was at an all time high and protests were seen on a scale unlike any since the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Why then is it that Ahmadinejad won by such a large margin? Is it as Mousavi claims? That the election was a sham? Does it even matter? Now that Mousavi has claimed it was rigged it is all a matter of perception. If the people believe that they were robbed the repercussions could become devastating.
And already we are seeing the beginnings of disbelief and anger. Immediately following the closing of polls there were reports of violent protests by Mousavi supporters and swift retaliation by Iranian authorities, with Mousavi claiming that “members of his election headquarters had been beaten ‘with batons, wooden sticks and electrical rods.’” (Aljazeera)
It remains to be seen how the government dispels the protesters, but the measures being taken now include blocking Facebook and some news sites as well as blocking text messaging, a popular form of communication used by Mousavi throughout his campaign. With pro-Mousavi protesters chanting slogans like “death to dictatorship” (CNN), it seems inevitable that this will be a longstanding, if not fatal problem for the Iranian government.
Will this year, thirty years after the Islamic Revolution, mark another turning point in Iranian history? Only time will tell.