In this post, I pleaded with Iranian reformists not to boycott the Iranian presidential elections in response to regime efforts to curb moderate and reformist participation in the political process. As I mentioned, "[t]he regime would like nothing less than to see moderate and reformist voters disillusioned, dispirited, apathetic and un-engaged in the upcoming elections; after all, such a state of affairs makes it easier to elect hardliners without resorting to vote-rigging, and thus without generating controversy."
Apparently, this blog is rather well-read in Iran, because my calls were heeded:
. . . many veteran Iran political watchers, who had expected a conservative winner in what had been a carefully vetted and controlled campaign, expressed surprise.
“If the reports are true, it tells me that there was a hidden but huge reservoir of reformist energy in Iran that broke loose in a true political wave,” said Cliff Kupchan, an Iran analyst for the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm in Washington. “It was unpredictable — not even tip of the iceberg visible two days or three days ago — but it seems to have happened.”
Farideh Farhi, an Iranian scholar at the University of Hawaii, while careful not to draw conclusions until the official result was known, said it was clear that reformists and other disaffected voters in Iran had summoned energy to mobilize for a heavy turnout despite their own doubts about the system.
“Everyone’s assumption was they would not be able to create a wave of voters in the society,” Ms. Farhi said. “This outcome was not something planned by Ayatollah Khamenei.”
The mood in the country led to the reformist decision to participate heavily in the election:
In surveys and interviews throughout the campaign, Iranians have consistently listed as their top priorities the economy, individual rights and the normalization of relations with the rest of the world. They also said they saw the vote as a way to send a message about their displeasure with the direction of the country, which has been hobbled by economic mismanagement and tough Western sanctions, stemming from the government’s refusal to stop enriching uranium.
This episode should teach reformists that they have the numbers and the power to change the political process for the better if they insist on continuing to participate in that process. Hopefully, there will be no more talk of boycotts and no more arguments that reformists should abstain from politics. Yes, the hardliners will do everything within their power to prevent reformists from changing Iran for the better, but reformists shouldn't make the hardliners' job easier by deserting the political field.
I do have to take issue with one part of the Times story, in which we are told that Hassan Rohani's "closest competitor in the early results, Mr. Ghalibaf, is also considered a moderate, a strong manager who has improved the quality of life in Tehran in his eight years as mayor." Qalibaf is a moderate? Really?
Is Iran’s presidential hopeful Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf a hard-liner or a moderate? It depends on his audience, apparently.
Recordings of two starkly different accounts given by Qalibaf of his role in the crackdown against protests have emerged online.
One recording was allegedly made at a meeting Qalibaf is said to have held a few weeks ago with hard-line Basij students.
In it Qalibaf, Tehran's mayor and a former Revolutionary Guards air force commander, appears to take credit for cracking down on Iran’s student movement. He says he personally beat up students with batons in the 1999 crackdown in Tehran and obtained permission from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council to shoot at student protesters in 2003. The Basij forces in recent years have been accused of being actively involved in repressive measures against students.
Yet, a few weeks later, in another meeting with students at Tehran’s Sharif University, Qalibaf had a very different account of the same 2003 event: He said he received the order to shoot at students but refused to do so.
Qalibaf's contradictory accounts appear to be part of an attempt to appeal to voters from different sides of the political spectrum as the June 14 presidential election approaches.
Why would any Iranian trust a presidential candidate who talks out of both sides of his mouth like this?