June 19th, 2009
12:46 PM ET

Iran's military coup

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/06/19/iran.election.us/art.iran.girl.apf.gi.jpg caption="A young girl accompanies Iranian women as they walk to hear the ayatollah give his speech Friday."]
Program Note: To hear Reza Aslan's take on the latest developments in Iran, tune in to AC360° tonight 10 P.M. ET. In his piece from earlier this week, Aslan discusses the country's response to its recent, highly contentious presidential election results.

Reza Aslan
The Daily Beast

So let’s get this straight. We are supposed to believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected in Iran’s presidential election last week by a 2 to 1 margin against his reformist rival Mir Hossein Mousavi. That this deeply unpopular president, whose gross mismanagement of the state budget is widely blamed for Iran’s economy hovering on the edge of total collapse, received approximately the same percentage of votes as Mohammad Khatami, by far Iran’s most popular past president, received in both 1997 and 2001? That Mousavi, whom all independent polls predicted would at the very least take Ahmadinejad into a runoff election, lost not only his main base of support, Tehran, but also his own hometown of Khameneh in East Azerbaijan (which, as any Azeri will tell you, never votes for anyone but its own native sons)…and by a landslide. That we should all take the word of the Interior Ministry, led by a man put in his position by Ahmadinejad himself, a man who called the election for the incumbent before the polls were even officially closed, that the election was a fair representation of the will of the Iranian people.


Such bald-faced election fraud is a totally new phenomenon in Iran, which takes its election process very seriously. This is, after all, the only expression of popular sovereignty that Iranians enjoy. Over and over again, the electorate has defied the will of the clerical regime when it comes to choosing the country’s president: in 1997 and 2001, when 70% of the population rejected the establishment candidate, Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, in favor of a completely unknown cleric, Khatami, whose greatest political contribution was as head of Iran’s National Library; and again in 2005 when Iranians rejected Hashemi Rafsanjani—the billionaire former president and the quintessential establishment candidate—to vote instead for a little-known mayor of Tehran named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who until that time had never run for any political office (Ahmadinejad was appointed mayor of Tehran after his predecessor was charged with corruption).


Filed under: 360° Radar • Iran • Reza Aslan
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