Iran’s election results map

iranelectionsbyprovince20091

Via Irantracker (showing Iran’s official results) certainly points to an overwhelming Ahmadinejad victory. Consider, however, this image taken from the province of Isfahan where these results show Ahmadinejad took, by considerable margin, every single city:

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Via madyar on twitter (courtesy of Steve Schippert)  an impressive array of people less than enthusiastic about the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I’d agree with Younghusband’s account, this entire deal is becoming less about the election results and more about a passive insurgency within a country whose youth, with zero personal memory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, far outnumber those pushing the status quo. Despite that I’d offer a bit of a caveat to those in the west that have shown spirited support for both Mir Hossein Mousavi and his increasingly mammoth following.

The end of Ahmadinejad in favor of Mousavi is not going to plunge Iran into some fantastical Revolution where Tehran magically becomes a national hub of Iranian secular, liberal, democracy. Mousavi may be a reformist by Iranian measures and has indeed run on a platform of more governmental transparency, equality for women, the end of the Moral Police and privatized (free) media. Mousavi has also called for constitutional reform to shift law enforcement and media out from under the fiat of the Supreme Leader to that of the President (as the President represents the people.) However, Mousavi hasn’t challenged the overall political/governmental structure of Iran.

Mousavi won’t be asking, a la Robespierre, for the head of the Supreme Leader nor has he holed himself up in a Parisian apartment to pen up a new constitution (a la Khomeini.) His intentions are not paramount to yet another socio-political revolution. On the contrary, he’s seeking to affect change from within the <i>existing</i> socio-political system.

I’m happy to see western (specifically US) solidarity with Iran’s mass resistance to apparent political fraud but from what I’m hearing and reading the expectations of many seem to be unrealistically high.

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14 Responses to Iran’s election results map

  1. Kitz says:

    Very insightful commentary. I read some Tweets that said, “This is your 1776″. Not so. Perhaps a step in the right direction, though.

    The one thing to keep in mind is that, although the Persian leaders of Iran are hostile to the West, the people are not. The President has been very aware of this and his restraint is both wise and calculating.

    One last thought: The Roman Empire fell into a quagmire in the Middle East, precipitating it’s downfall. I hope Obama paid more attention in history class than our previous leaders.

  2. T. Greer says:

    Munro- I hope you can forgive me for being so bold as to say that you have seriously misread Iranian electoral politics.

    I believe it to be a mistake to characterize Mousavi as “reformist” and Ahmadinejad as some type of Conservative. This simply isn’t how things are seen in Iran. I believe the best summary of the Iranian election dynamic was provided by “Freud Bud” of Open Source Geopolitics:

    “Both candidates are revanchist–in the sense that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution itself is revanchist, meaning a “political policy, as of a nation or an ethnic group, intended to regain lost territory or standing.” The Constitution is explicitly anti-colonialist, calling for self-reliance and attempting to ensure an absence of outside interference.

    “Iranian politics thus do not fit the mold of left versus right as in the West, or even really reformist versus conservative. There is the establishment, and then there is the slightly less establishment.

    What Ahmadinejad is is a populist anti-establishmentarian–he is taking on the old guard of the Revolution. He has replaced senior officials in all branches of the Executive with his own guys–the people he replaced mostly got their jobs due to political connections with the Old Guard. One of his most radical moves was to completely replace the senior diplomatic staff of the government. His constant refrain is to argue against the “corruption” of the old Guard…He’s a caudillo wanna-be, greatly limited by the Constitution’s emphasis on the LOTR and various institutions designed to guarantee the Islamic nature of the government.

    “Mousavi is the old guard, a previous prime minister, tied in with the Revolutionary Guard, the bonyad system†, and backed by Rafsanjani–he is the establishment choice, which is why he might be the first presidential candidate to unseat the incumbent in the history of Iranian presidential elections.

    Thus, it might be somewhat ironic that some in the West appear to be excited about Mousavi, when Ahmadinejad, awful and obnoxious as he is, is the candidate who threatens to overturn part of the power structure there. Mousavi will likely make less anti-Semitic comments in the press, seem more reasonable, return the Old Guard’s picks to their places in government, and, as such, be resolutely less populist than Ahmadinejad–as Ahmadinejad’s views, though horrific, do have currency throughout much of the Middle East.

    “Thus, strange as it is to say, Ahmadinejad is the candidate of change, though much of that change would be expressed in ways that we are uncomfortable with. But it is change that could weaken the existing power structure. If he were able to grab more power, he would certainly continue to make efforts to undermine the existing power structure, unlike Mousavi–and likely make the Iranian system weaker and more malleable in the future.”

    For what it is worth, Open Source Geopolitics has continued to provide insightful analysis on this issue.

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  4. Michael says:

    I don’t know much about the subject, but I do know that Ahmadinejad got into hot water early in his 1st term for proposing that women be allowed to go to football games. A flimsy reason for saying Greer might be on to something, but there it is.

  5. Curzon says:

    Is it relevant/significant that the Armeni/Azeri/Baluchi regions were strong for the opposition? Is there a ethno-political divide in this regard? Or was it harder for the powers that be to influence the results in these regions, if in fact the ballot boxes were stuffed?

  6. I’ve got no issue with civil disagreement, T. Greer. It breeds discussion.

    First, I’d hesitate to assume a person’s understanding based on a single blog post. This post wasn’t meant to be a lengthy tutorial on either the candidates or the political process. It was to contrast a cartographical representaion of the official results with a remarkable image depicting the popular dissent that has grown since those results were released. The attached commentary was a reflection on the gathering Western furor depicting this mass protest as a “Revolution,” and on how I disagree with that sentiment.

    Second, I don’t recall referring to Ahmadinejad as “some type of Conservative.” And I referred to Mousavi as a “reformist by Iranian standards.” I don’t envision Iran’s political machinery through a lens of Americocentrism where everything whittles down to two opposing parties.

    Thanks much for the article. I’ll give it a full read when I can. Bearing in mind that I haven’t given it a full read, what I find interesting about what you’ve quoted here is that the author focuses entirely on Ahmadinejad the President and fails to address Ahmadinejad the governor, Ahmadinejad the advisor to governor general, Ahmadinejad the governor general and Ahmadinejad the Mayor of the country’s capitol. Ahmadinejad may well be the anti-establishment President but he’s made some remarkable progress through the existing political system that the author presents him to be the antithesis of.

    The author then focuses entirely on Mousavi the last Prime Minister (ignoring Mousavi’s focus on ecomomic reform) and makes no mention of Mousavi who turned aside a Pres. bid and instead enabled and advised an obscure cleric, Mohammad Khatami (who became president and whose reforms have been since rolled back by the anti-establishment President,) or any of the platform issues (including as I mentioned, constitutional reform) he ran on. The idea that Mousavi cannot affect reform (as Khatami did) because he’s “old guard” seems a bit weak.
    Collapsing a political system may be change (as the author attributes it) but it’s certainly not reform. In this I agree with your quoted article. From my post:

    “His [Mousavi] intentions are not paramount to yet another socio-political revolution. On the contrary, he’s seeking to affect change from within the existing socio-political system.”

    So you’re article and I agree on at least one aspect.

  7. T. Greer says:

    Mungro-

    Thanks for the response.

    You are right, it is a bit unfair for me to assume your full understanding of a subject based off one blog posting. Indeed, what I did was even worse than that, as my object of discontent was but two paragraphs-

    “The end of Ahmadinejad in favor of Mousavi is not going to plunge Iran into some fantastical Revolution where Tehran magically becomes a national hub of Iranian secular, liberal, democracy. Mousavi may be a reformist by Iranian measures and has indeed run on a platform of more governmental transparency, equality for women, the end of the Moral Police and privatized (free) media. Mousavi has also called for constitutional reform to shift law enforcement and media out from under the fiat of the Supreme Leader to that of the President (as the President represents the people.) However, Mousavi hasn’t challenged the overall political/governmental structure of Iran.

    Mousavi won’t be asking, a la Robespierre, for the head of the Supreme Leader nor has he holed himself up in a Parisian apartment to pen up a new constitution (a la Khomeini.) His intentions are not paramount to yet another socio-political revolution. On the contrary, he’s seeking to affect change from within the existing socio-political system

    This statement was reminiscent of much commentary surrounding the election, where is Mousavi cast as a great reformist and Ahmedinejad cast in the role of Conservative villain. I am sure you have seen such material, but if you need me to provide links to such, I will be willing to oblige.

    But, you did not endorse explicitly endorse this view anywhere in your post. You were right to call me on this- please forgive me for reading more into your words than was warranted.

    With that said, we still have an object of disagreement.. I have seen little evidence that Mousavi is a real reformist at all- he wishes to spruce up the edges and give the Iranian state a nice, clean look, but true reform is not his goal in the least. He might be able to affect reform, but I remain skeptical that he actually wishes to do so.

    I would also support FB’s statement that the true structural reformist is Ahmedinejad. In response to this claim you rightly remind us of the utility Ahmedinejad has found in the current political system, and the amount of power he has been able to wield due to his position thereof. But in response, I must ask- has not each increase in Ahmedinejad’s influence amounted to a similar loss of power on the hand of the clerics? I suspect that this erosion of the traditional power structure is one of the elements we have seen at play in recent days. Why does Khomieni refuse to back down on the electoral front?

    This is speculation on my part, but I believe Khomieni might just need Ahmedinejad as much as Ahmedinejad needs him.

  8. T. Greer says:

    Upon reflection, I believe this debate might just be outdated already. Events are moving quite quickly on the ground- if Mousavi was not a structural reformist when this started, he will likely be forced into such a role by those declaring the need to “overthrow the dictatorship” in the streets of Tehran — amusing he wishes to lead such a movement, at least.

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  10. Roy Berman says:

    I very much agree with T. Greer’s latest comment. Let me repost the comments I made in response to someone elseon my own blog, as the commenter pool here is somewhat different, and includes more people focused on this part of the world.

    I will also admit that not all neocons are so bloodthirsty as I implied above, but there is certainly such a faction. I also believe, based on my admittedly limited knowledge of Iranian politics, that Mousavi is not a radical reformer and is heavily linked to Rafsanjani, who is widely suspected of corruption and personal greed. I even admitted this possibility in my original post, where I mentioned the example of the post EDSA-2 Philippines as an example of a popular revolt being hijacked by a new leader who turns out to be no better (if not worse) than the old one.

    “This IS the strike against Iran. One doesn’t have to support Ahmadinejad to see that this is not a truly popular movement and that it isn’t good for Iran, whatever the outcome.”

    Now here is where I disagree more. I think that while Mousavi’s original candidacy may have been something more along the lines of what you implied, he is NOT the leader of the current uprising, and it is in fact very much a popular and spontaneous revolt. Of course, the origin of the revolt is inextricably linked to Mousavi’s presidential campaign, and the way in which he was so obviously cheated provided the spark for mass protest, but it has already grown well beyond him. Yes, if the protests succeed then he will very likely be the next president (with backing from Rafsanjani, as you pointed out), but I suspect, perhaps somewhat idealistically, that as a president swept into office as the result of a massive populist uprising he will be in a very different position to enact reforms than if he had merely won a theocrat-sponsored election. There will be expectations from the masses, and he will himself be shaped by the experience. Will this necessarily make him a better president, and make the Iranian state a freer and more democratic one than it is today? Of course there are no guarantees, but of all the realistic outcomes that lay before the Iranians as of this moment, I believe this is the most hopeful.

  11. I think the whole “neocon’s did this” bit is a tad too black helicopter and tin foil hat for my liking. It gives too much credit to the CIA and infers the Iranian people are so much mindless cattle.

    That aside I agree with both T. Greer and Roy, this is well beyond the election results especially since the movement now has a martyr via the explosively viral video showing the tragic death of a young woman (apparently named Neda) from a basiji delivered bullet.

    The actions of the Iranian authorities in the last day have me leaning away from the possibility of Mousavi winning a new election and more toward the likelyhood of this whole thing ending in a Tiananmen-like brutal crackdown. Barring a revolt from within the military the uprising hasn’t got a chance if the government decides to end it at any cost.

  12. Roy Berman says:

    “Curzon: Is it relevant/significant that the Armeni/Azeri/Baluchi regions were strong for the opposition? Is there a ethno-political divide in this regard? Or was it harder for the powers that be to influence the results in these regions, if in fact the ballot boxes were stuffed?”

    This article from Tehranbureau.com (which has been doing a great job) has this to say http://tehranbureau.com/uncategorized/disgusting-fraud/:

    The Chatham House data also show, conclusively, that rural voters do not support Ahmadinejad, contrary to the oft-repeated myth in the media and among many analysts. In 2005, for instance, the report shows a perfect correlation: The more rural the province, the lower Ahmadinejad’s vote in 2005. Why? “Much of Iran’s rural population is comprised of ethnic minorities: Lors, Baluch, Kurdish, and Arab amongst others. These ethnic minorities have a history of voting Reformist,” says the report. In 2005, they voters overwhelmingly for Karroubi and for Mostafa Moin, not Ahmadinejad. The report, backed by detailed statistical analysis, shows that to have won the support he claims to have achieved in rural areas, Ahmadinejad would have to have won fully half of the reformist vote, and notion that the report calls “highly implausible.”

    Don’t forget that conservative candidate Mohsen Rezai is a member of the Bakhtiari minority, Mehdi Karoubi is from the Luri minority, and Mousavi is himself an Azeri (who are the majority of nearby Azerbaijan). I haven’t seen this pointed out explicitly anywhere, but it looks like Ahmadinejad is the only of the four candidates to actually be a Persian.

  13. Michael says:

    Latest from Stratfor: among other things, it points out that Ahmadinejad also speaks Azeri and made multiple campaign stops there.

    http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20090622_iranian_election_and_revolution_test

  14. The Shah referred to Azeri’s (due to their separatist nature) as “Turkish Donkeys.” That aside, the Supreme Leader is also not Persian (his father was Azeri.)
    I think the ethnic division now (aside from perhaps Kurdish resistance in the north west) is small aside from ethnocentric political preferences (and even those are cautious and socio economic grievance.

    As Michael states Ahmadinejad put forth his fluency of Azeri dialect as a campaign “zinger” of sorts. He also tossed potatoes and rials (literally) to the rural poor (wonder where they live?) I don’t think ethnicity is yet a major factor in this.

    However, should some semblance of reform come through (and either it will or the state will simply devolve into a nation wide Tiananmen at this point) the ethnic angle will, I would surmise, take on some steam.