Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ahmadinejerk retains office, so to speak

[UPDATED]

I am fascinated by the reactions people are having at what seems to be the massive electoral fraud taking place in Iran.

An easy joke heard of course is that the CNE opened offices in Teheran. But the Iranian theocracy has long known how to make free and fair election an impossible goal; in fact Iran invented some of the CNE tricks used today in Venezuela, such as the "inhabilitaciones" where a cheap ayatollah, Clodosvaldo Ruffian, receives the orders as to whom can run in an election, without any judicial supervision.

Others are simply shocked, SHOCKED, that the so obvious triumph of Mousavi was not accepted. Forgetting first that Mousavi was no gift to democracy himself. Forgetting that Iran was a theocracy. What did they expect?

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocracy, never forget that. And as such it is a milder variation of totalitarianism in that for faith reasons people, many people at least, are more than willing to accept ways that are close to a totalitarian way of life. Or has any of you forgotten that gay teenagers are hung? That women are forced into second rank status by the mere obligation of the tchador? That women caught in adultery risk their lives? That the regime has no qualms suppressing text messaging and Facebook for political purposes? That the real leader of the country is an Ayatollah that called all but by name to vote for Ahmadinejerk? All of that and much more in the name of a religion that got stuck somewhere in the Middle Ages.

The mirror image is also true in that totalitarian regimes are not loath to borrow from religious practices to secure their hold on power. We need not look further than our local neo-totalitarian version busy rewriting Venezuelan history, creating new mythical heroes, creating a religious like calendar with ceremonies and language included.

The Ayatollahs in Iran are never going to relinquish power pacifically. They came to power thirty years ago through an historical accident and an accidental messiah. They have become now for the most part a cast of privileged abusers and they are not going to let go, ever. Through nationalism and religious fervor they have created an accomplice network that dabs in diverse sorts of thuggery and blackmail, such as it happens in any totalitarian regime, though until now the religious values have stopped Iran from going fundamentalist to outright totalitarian.

These are the rewards the West is collecting. 30 years of apology have yielded this electoral result where some claim that the government did not even bother counting ballots. It was first the nasty Shah. Then it was a religion, you know, they have the right to limit basic human rights because of their "tradition". And they need to defend themselves agaisnt Iraq so they need a big army and secrecy. And oil is going to run out so even if they are getting ready for a bomb how can we forbid them to develop nuclear energy. All the guilt of the West helped creating a problem worse than the original evil.

Meanwhile Israel which has a full sense of what is at stake is probably resigning itself in starting a global war by striking Iran first if those wuss in the West do not shape up some.

And meanwhile in Latin America a similar anti democratic fundamentalist process is at play where we hear very similar excuses to justify what should never be justified. If I do not want to detail the parallels on how rogue regimes are allowed to establish themselves through the indolence and/or neglect of their neighbors, I can at least find a silver lining for the readers of this rant: it is going to become much funnier and easier to counter all the Chavez supporters we are going to cross in the future.

This contested Ahmadinejerk election is going to bring further repression in Iran while that country will try to get as close as it can to other rogue countries as its only front. Venezuela is one of those. So now, more than ever, we are all going to be able to use Iran as a litmus test against any pro Chavez creep. Does a leftist revolutionary supports nuclear bombs as a blackmail tool? Is that OK to make electoral fraud a norm to preserve any anti US regime? Is it OK to void basic Human Rights? Do you support gay marriage in the US but find nothing wrong with hanging gay teenagers? And more, much, much more. Have fun!

UPDATE

That Iran thing is going places. Apparently the regime has even cut Twitter, applying the basic strategy in any war, cut enemy lines internal communications as much as possible.

If in English I could not find any confirmation at least Radio France Internationale does say that Mousavi would be under house arrest while many of his campaign managers and party allies would have been arrested outright.

Two reflections here. First, this should be a lesson for the Venezuelan opposition. If Ahmadinejad gets away with such an election, you can be sure that Chavez will take his chances. Thus the opposition needs to work out right now its communication lines, diversify them as much as possible before an increasingly nationalized sector can cut these communications at will.

The second reflection is more negative, if possible. If Ahmadinejerk can afford to make such an electoral claim without offering an audit or anything, it is because he did get many votes, maybe even more than 50%. Inasmuch as it is not palatable for us with our Western sensitivities, people vote mostly in less educated countries on a transactional basis. That is, what is in it for me? In Venezuela many chavista voters do not like, for example, all the giving Chavez spreads abroad. But as long as they keep receiving the little bit that come their way they do not care and keep voting for Chavez. Transpose this phenomenon to Iran where a theocratic system combines religious values, nationalism and the occasional freebie and there you go: a solid 30 to 50% for Ahmadinejerk brand of religious populism (for lack of a better word description).

In regimes like Iran or Venezuela, it is not enough for the opposition to win, it has to be a massive win. As long as the sitting unpalatable government manages to retain between 40 and 45% of decided to fanatic voters, they will have little problem in retaining power even if they know they lost. Fraud works when you are determined and have almost as many voters as the winning side.

The lesson of Iran is clear for the Venezuelan opposition: if they want to become government someday they cannot wait for Chavez to collapse (Ahmadinejerk was reputed to be in serious economic trouble and we see none of that in the result!). The Venezuelan opposition needs electoral unity, a minimum government program that the masses can understand, a fool proof communication system for election day and manning ALL voting stations with enough witnesses to make sure accurate counting takes place. In an age of text messaging even if Chavez closes Globovision tomorrow you can still do a campaign. Or does anyone thinks that the Ayatollahs ever allowed a Globovison like media there?

-The end-

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