26 Jun 2005
(updated 3 Jul 2005 at 12:47 UTC) »
Democracy and Iran: Daniel
has asked about what really happened. The short answer is "we can't claim we know". We only have our own limited answers.
Forgive my limited English vocabulary, but to me, this was an election between wisdom and ignorance. People voted for Ahmadinejad because he talked like them, talking hopefully but without much thinking. Because he was not sophisticated, while every single sophisticated person (writers, artists, reformist politicians, and even several conservative politicians) has talked against Ahmadinejad and in favor of Rafsanjani.
Rafsanjani, on the other hand, had well-thought plans and good proofs to make sure he can implement them. (I had even directly influenced Rafsanjani's plans by asking someone I knew in the commitee who worked on Rafsanjani's plans to remove a part about expanding the patent system, by explaining that it's practically more dangerous than useful to both business and science, and it was actually removed at the end!)
People voted for Ahmadinejad because he said he will lower the economic difference between the rich and the poor, but without any figures or definitions about who is considered poor and who is considered rich (Rafsanjani was considered rich, of course). I know several people who are much richer than the average Iranian (say, they own a shop in the capital selling PC peripherals), but by looking higher than themselves they thought that the lowering the economical difference of the classes will make them richer instead of poorer. So they voted for Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad is either a total idiot or an expert liar (I consider the second one more probable). For example, in his interviews, he told that Iran is a rich country, by comparing the amount of Iran's petroleum and mineral reserves to those of the the whole world, and then doing the same with the number of people. He concluded that since Iran holds 1% of the population of the world but more than 2% of the reserves, it is a rich country, ignoring other revenue-generating industries in the world, like manufacturing and services. He then blamed the rich people and their corruption as the reason, ignoring that we really are a poor country in terms of any infrastructure except those related to extraction of petroleum. But the people, who don't read much anything, including newspapers who explained how wrong this explanation is, assumed that he knows what he is talking about, or he wouldn't have received a PhD...
But let me try to answer Daniel's questions:
- How will we be able to help?
By spreading wisdom and information about the situation around the world. By making sure your politicians, specially the ones in the United States who are very happy to see a hardliner come to power in Iran, understand that you are no fools and don't support a war against a country of people poor in both money and wisdom. Make sure you elect pacifists next time. Make sure the same destiny of Iraqis don't happen to Iranians. A war, possibly over the controversial atomics, is what both the US and Iranian neocons who are both now in power look forward to, to the expense of both of their people. Finally, you can help by advising us what to do. We feel very crushed under the situation, and this seriously stops us from thinking clearly.
- How can this happen in a country where women have the right to vote?
By fooling a lot of women into believing that he will not restrict them much in some aspects, but not exactly mentioning which aspects: he insisted that he believes a very important role for women in the society, but failed to mention any role other than the usual kitchenwork and childcare in his generalized explanations. But it is also very probable that most Iranian women prefer staying at home than having a presence in the society. Most of them prefer "having more to eat" and "making sure their children get a job" to a political or social role in Iran (he has explicitly mentioned that he does not consider women suitable as ministers). In other words, we don't have that many feminists in Iran.
- Is there vote statistics available to try to understand town vs. countryside, sex, age influence on people's vote?
Any kind of opinion polls on the day of election were banned by the government (and almost all independent polling institutes were closed by the conservatives because of publishing results they didn't like, like more people being in favor of diplomatic relations with the United States than not), so the only statistics available should be town vs countryside one. I don't know if it will be published or not, but worth mentioning is that even people living in Tehran, who are supposed to be more educated, voted more for Ahmadinejad. I have heard that in some rural areas people have voted more for Rafsanjani, but I fail to understand why. (Rafsanjani was a cleric of course, which may have been one of the reasons. People living in rural areas are more religious, after all.)
- Of course those who didn't vote deserve the right to be ignored.
This is not a question of course, but it's worth answering. I add the people who didn't vote to the supporters of Ahmadinejad. Although it is widely believed that if they were forced to vote most of them would have voted for Rafsanjani, they didn't vote for him for several different reasons, including the reverse psychological techniques used by the Supreme Leader, like mentioning that voting for any candidate also means an approval of the ruling regime. These people prefer being bystanders to having a say, yes, but no, we can't ignore them. They simply lacked the same wisdom that people who voted for Ahmadinejad lacked. I really hope they could think properly (and mathematically). Is it so hard to understand that not voting in an election that makes a real difference for you is necessary?
- I had to go vote for Chirac in the last presidential election here to block the ultra right wing, and still feel bitter about this but this is democracy rules.
Yes, this was compared to that election by many intellectuals, and I guess I feel more bitter about what I did to block Ahmadinejad. I made several phone calls to friends and family members and talked them into voting for Rafsanjani and doing the same as me by calling their friends and family. Elnaz and I both volunteered as official government inspectors of a polling station, the only governmental service I had done in my life (it was more than 16 hours nonstop). All this, considering that Rafsanjani is a proven liar, his family are widely considered to be involved in the corruption, and he is really an aristocrat cleric. But at least he was a moderate politician who knows basic economics to know that one can't improve the livings of the people by paying the petroleum money directly to them instead of building infrastructures. I am very sad that my people elected the Iranian Le Pen. This only proves that they lack the basic wisdom necessary for democracy. Perhaps they really deserve the very limited democracy they have now. Perhaps this was the reason they exchanged one dictator for another in their 1979 revolution. Or soon afterward, they voted for a very ambiguous and undefined "Islamic Republic" almost on the same day I was born.