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Democracy is real in Iran

June 16, 2009

The Presidential election in Iran was/is fascinating to me.  The number of voters that allegedly participated was staggering, meaning the electoral process, and the fervor for democratic changed seemed to have inspired people.  If you are to believe what you hear, there were polls before the election that suggested that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad enjoyed a comfortable lead over reformer candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.  However, based upon the sheer number of new voters, and young people fully engaged in the process, Mousavi was seen has having a strong chance to pull the upset.  The state of the country’s economy, and image throughout the world due to Ahmadinejad’s dangerously loose talk and brashness also contributed to Mousavi’s rise in the polls.

So, what is the truth?  Did the president actually claim his victory fairly?  Does Mousavi have a legitimate argument in assessing this election as fraudulent?  I certainly cannot say with any certainty what took place.  What I can say is that what we witnessed in Iran was a new glorious moment developing on the political horizon.  We witnessed the burgeoning growth of real democracy.  What?  How is this possible, given the results of an election that most across the globe see as being pre-determined?  The results in this instance, don’t matter.  What matters is the pathway of the process.  What matters is the millions of Iranians, young and old,  who were energized by the possibility.  The possibility of affecting change peacefully.  This is the true application of democracy.  And this could be its result.

In a way, it does not matter if Ahmadinejad  proves to be the winner.  Even now in the bloody aftermath of democratic protests in Iran, the political and technological crackdown by the religious ruling leaders trying to quell dissent, does them harm, and loosens their tight grip on the reins of power.  The people are speaking, and every day they are making Ahmadinejad’s voice less powerful and more irrelevant.  A small step is a step nonetheless.  President Obama is wise to hold his cards close during this process.  He must be certain that he maintains his authority to negotiate with whomever comes forward as Iran’s leader, and not be seen as overreaching in helping to settle Iran’s affairs.  Letting the election recount (if it happens) play out.   Some in the United States, like Senator John McCain, are so appalled by the disputed outcome they have spoken out more forcefully than the president.  Others call for a more measured approach here and here.  This later tact is the way to go.  The United States must play vigilant, not vigilante.

It is important to stay the course, and fight for peace strongly.  What we see in Tehran is positive, despite the appearance of illegality and subterfuge.  The winds of democracy blow.  It’s only a matter of time before they lift the veil of the unjust to reveal the will of the people.

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