Iranian voters defy Bush

Two days before Iran’s election on Friday, President Bush– that champion of democracy worldwide!– urged the country’s voters to stay home.
62.7 percent of Iranians defied his call, according to this AP story. Voter turnout in Iran was thus considerably higher than in the last US elections.
Bush was quite correct to note that the choices offered to the Iranian voters were significantly constrained by the requirement that, to be eligible to run, a candidate had to be declared fit to do so by the country’s Council of Guardians.
Seven candidates were thus declared fit, and by all accounts most of them ran spirited campaigns. Also, they did represent a significant (though obviously much curtailed) range of different positions and opinions.
Bush struts about the world stage on “democratization” issues as though the electoral system that generated his own presidency were quite perfect as a way of discerning and operationalizing the people’s will. It isn’t. The outrageous campaign-finance system in the US means that in order to be on the presidential ballot there a candidate is required, in effect, to have his candidacy declared valid by the country’s “Council of Big Money”.
In the end, only two or three candidates ever make the cut. In this last election, the differences in approach between Bush and Kerry on most major issues– including the war in Iraq– were razor-thin.
In both elections, I wish the choice offered the voters had been much broader, the rules of participation in the election much more inclusive, and the pre-election campaigning focused much more on the very difficult circumstances facing each country.
But it strikes me that for Bush– “Mr. “Democratization”– to call on the voters in another country to stay home during an election in their country is the height of hypocrisy.
In any event, there is quite some evidence that it backfired. Rafsanjani was, as expected, one of the two front-runners who will go into a run-off election next Friday. But the other one is not a reform candidate (as expected), but rather, Teheran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, described as a pro-regime hardliner.
Addendum, Monday morning, New Zealand time–
Here is a good piece of reporting on the campaign the US neocons had mounted against the Iranian election in the days before the first round of voting June 18.

16 thoughts on “Iranian voters defy Bush”

  1. Good points Helena. But campaign finance reform has made it more likely that the major party candidates will be super-rich. Both Bush and Kerry were born multi-millionaires for instance.
    If the US has a Council of Guardians it is the people who determine who gets on the tv presidential debates.

  2. Helena,
    One thing that you forgot about the US system is how it prevents Third Party candidates from getting on the ballot. Basically, if you run as a Republican or Democrat, you automatically qualify to get on the ballot in your respective state. Whereas if you run as a Third Party candidate your campaign MUST go state by state and collect X number of signatures to get you on the ballot.
    Maybe we can call this the “Council to Preserve the Two Party System.”
    Another restriction on democracy in the US is the way Third Party candidates get their money from the Federal govt (either matching funds or paying for the party costs in the general elections). The Democratic/Republican candidates get their money up-front, while Third Party candidates get their money 4 years later based on the percentage of the vote they got in the prior election.
    And finally, there is that none sense of a debate commission. Back in 1987, the Repubs/Dems got together and decided to have a commission to determine who will participate in the Presidential debates. Dems/Repubs get in automatically. But Third Party candidates must have at least a 15% standing in the polls before they are included.
    Yeah, Iran does have a Council or Guardians, but so does the US in the form of various restrictions to preserve the two party monopoly.
    To me the Democratic Party is more dangerous to progressive grass roots activism than the Republican Party. With the current crop or Repubs you know what you will get, ie, more tax cuts to the rich, more foreign wars, more cuts to social programs.
    The Democrats PRETEND to be the party of the common person, but in reality they are very close in policy to their Repubs counterparts. In the last election, for example, Kerry used anti-war rehtoric (wrong war, wrong place, wrong time) but was a thoroughly pro-war candidate. What Kerry was able to achieve with this was to DEFUSE the Anti-War movement. You will notice that after the election the Anti-War movement was very much weakened.
    IMO, the Democratic Party is there simply to co-opt grassroots progressive activism and render it harmless.

  3. The outrageous campaign-finance system in the US means that in order to be on the presidential ballot there a candidate is required, in effect, to have his candidacy declared valid by the country’s “Council of Big Money”.
    What absolute nonsense. Ralph Nader and Michael Badnarik were each on the last presidential ballot, hardly “Big Money” candidates. You’re seriously comparing campaign finance inequity to the powers of the Guardian Council and Velayat-e-faghigh? I hope you’re making a joke, Helena. If you are, it isnt very funny.

  4. President Bush– that champion of democracy worldwide! — urged the country’s voters to stay home.
    GWB tailored the democracy as he like, in Egypt its ok, in Iraq under occupation urged the Iraqi’s voters to go and vote under a very risky and dangerous environments because of his troops, in Kazakhstan its the ultimate democracy when 1000,s killed and arrested and we don

  5. There you have it. Maybe all it takes for ME democracies to flourish is for GWB to discourage them and the Arab masses will burst with civic fervor. Just like getting toddlers to do something by prohobiting it.

  6. Don’t provoke David, Salah. He might break his word and enlist, and we have a diminishing recruitment trend going that we don’t want to discourage. Since the DoD has outsourced the hunt for Bin Laden to the Afghans and Pakistanis (who just missed him again, darn) the US Army and Marines are now on the Oil Company Procurement and Israeli Security Enhancement Patrol and being starved for young bodies.
    Maybe Bin Laden will be around to help the GOP in the next election cycle. The Iraq war probably won’t help them, though. The British generals are leaking to the Sunday Times and the American generals (mindful of Shinseki’s fate) are going behind Rumsfeld’s back to their Republican friends in Congress. Things are looking up.

  7. multisect
    “Don’t provoke David, Salah”
    Do you believe in free speech or not?
    Do you believe human right or not?
    Do you believe in democracy or not?

  8. Sure, I do, Salah. I also expect every culture has a form of wry humor. Arguing with True Believers just gets your blood pressure up, which is what their trollish hearts enjoy, so I don’t do it. If you catch them in a lie they’ll just imply lying is patriotic. I should have left your name out of it.
    Please post the truth as you see it, Salah.

  9. Salah,
    I think multisect was not telling you what you should or should not do. I think he was using humour to make a point about David and people with his mentality.

  10. Salah,
    I do not know why these regimes are in power against their citizen’s will.
    I know they are corrupt, I know they distract their masses and blame everything on the West, or Israel, or the UK, but that trick shouldn’t work for 100 years.
    I know their countries have contributed remarkably little lately to the world’s knowledge, culture, and even sports. The only gold medal they got last time around was in rifle shooting (UAE). I know if they rolled up their sleeves with the goal of providing better lives for their citizens we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Now tell me why. I promise to listen attentively.

  11. Are we supposed to be happy with this result? Ahmadinejad has been repeatedly described as a social conservative. If that rhetoric is right he appears then to be an Iranian George W. Bush. News reports about the clerics running grass roots campaigns for Ahmadinejad eerily parallel the fundamentalist christian campaigning for GWB. It looks like the theocratic side of the Iranian government now have a mouthpiece in the presidency, much as the Christian fundies have in GWB.

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