Elections in Iran

In the week's most underblogged story (wherefore art thou, Democracy Arsenal?), the Iranian elections are rapidly hurtling towards the nightmare scenario.  The reformers have been demolished, though it's uncertain whether that's by voter rejection or fraud, and what's left is unsavory at best, dangerous at worst.  When the polls first closed, the government announced that Rafsanjani (a former president and general pragmatist), Mostafa Moin (a reformer in Khatami's vein), and the conservative Qalibaf would be entering into runoff.  The next morning, that was amended.

The new runoff would be between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad, the xenophobic, anti-American, ultraconservative mayor of Tehran.  In this context, the reformers, fearful of Ahmadinejab's particular brand of Islamic intolerance, have thrown their weight behind longtime foe Rafsanjani in the hopes that their voters won't sit out the runoff and hand the election to the truly insane. 

What's going on is pretty unclear.  Assuming there is fraud, the Guardians Council either decided to install a hardliner or rig the election so a Rafsanjani win looks like a reformist triumph, thus short circuiting a lot of post-election pressure.  Assuming there's not fraud, it's a bad direction for Iran to be heading in.  And no matter what the outcome, this bodes badly for American relations with Iran.  If Ahmadinejab ascends to the presidency, expect to hear much more talk among the rightwing about the need for pre-nuclear regime change, and expect their arguments to start looking much more credible (if still impossible given our overstretched army).

--Ezra

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