Friday, June 12, 2009

Iranian Presidential Elections: Can Moussavi spark the next Iranian revolution?

While Virginian’s went to the poll to select our nominees in the General Election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and House of Delegates, dramatic developments have been occurring during the closing days of the Iranian Presidential elections. A name that hasn’t been heard of since the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Mir Houssein Moussavi, is on the verge of ousting current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran’s national elections. Mir Houssein Moussavi was Prime Minister of Iran during the entire Iran-Iraq War. While the Ayatolla’s are still the ultimate decision makers in Iran, Moussavi is seen as a reformer and his election to the Presidency would be a dramatic departure from the inflammatory rhetoric of Ahmadinejad.

There have been discussions and comments in the blogs and traditional media that President Obama’s approach to foreign policy of, engagement with an “open fist”, has helped shift the discussion in Iran about their relationship to the rest of the world. But, Iran is also dealing with significant domestic issues such as a deteriorating standard of living, rising unemployment, and rising inflation. Ahmadinejad’s once solid support with poor and middle class voters has declined significantly as questions about his ability to deal with the national economy have helped to open the door for Moussavi and a call for change. The number of people turning out to vote today is sending a huge message that there is a need for change in leadership in Iran. This call for change is being fueled by younger voter and have helped Moussavi’s rapid climb in the polls leading up to today’s election. Whatever the result of Iran’s Presidential Election, there is also concern that with feelings so high, there could be violence once a winner is announced.

There is no expectation from the international community that Iran will change their stance on developing their nuclear program, but anyone other than Ahmadinejad as President of Iran would be a welcome change. We will have to wait and see. The outcome of the election will take time to sort out because Iran uses paper ballots and they count them by hand. Ironic isn’t it?

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