Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Can Neda in Death Rekindle Iran's Democracy?

The shot that killed 26 year-old Neda Salehi Agha Soltan on Saturday in Tehran was heard around the world. Our hearts hurt for her. According to several reports, not least the stunning I-minute video of her dying moment, Neda was an innocent bystander watching street protests against a flawed election result, when she was shot. Neda, you are an innocent and your immortality in the cause of freedom, justice and Iran's democracy has just begun.

Iran's SELF-STYLED, UNELECTED "supreme leader" which pretty much means 'look at me I'm TOP DOG MULLAH and I am embarrassingly selfpromoting' -- Khamenei-- bears responsibility for Neda's brutal killing.
Ahmadinejad's leadership is dependent of the support of the clerics, (all male no surprise), and NOT the electorate. Ahmadinajad cannot succeed because his victory is bloodstained by the dying gasp and the rolling eyes of an innocent. Ahmadinejad's victory was not accomplished by ethical means, necessary for the full expression of participatory democracy.

But wait -- both Khamenei and Ahmadinajad are effective in controlling US neo-imperial designs in the West Asia region. That's important.

Neda's death has lent a bloody clarity, as well rendered more complex the internal and external geopolitics of Iran:

People everywhere who support the ethical development of civil societies in all nation-states, regions, culture areas and spaces, had hoped that Iran's elections would be fair. We had hoped that Iran's ancient civilization and staggering contribution to world culture would be vindicated by a vibrant and authentic expression of the people's aspirations. Instead, Iran's election have proven to be highly irregular, if not outright fraudulent.

3 million more votes were "cast" than there were registered voters! Did dead people vote? Did non-existent people vote? Did certain people vote multiple times? What an unholy mess for this self-described Islamic Republic.

Could Iran learn a lesson in electoral politics and vote counting from secular democratic India which recently conducted a massive and fair election; has more followers of Islam than Iran; and has more followers of Islam than any country except Indonesia? Yes Iran can.

Yes, Iran take a page out of India's flawed but fair election Lesson Plan. Iran, Be open, transparent, take responsibility for discrepancies in the vote count. Show that you can be discursive, not prescriptive. Discussion that bends towards Justice and in fact leads to Justice is the cornerstone of Ethical Democracy.

Obviously, the first strategic step that both Ahmadinejad and MirHossein Moussavi should have jointly taken is to call, in a televised joint appearance, for a vote recount in disputed constituencies and a rejection of illegal ballots.

Instead, Ahmadinejad defended the result and proved himself by his actions to be ever more inclined to be a dictator rather than an elected leader. He was supported by Iran's self-proclaimed Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who predictably promised a bloody suppression of peaceful street protests against the flawed ballot result. It was precisely that bloody suppression that so heartbreakingly claimed the life of Neda Salehi Agha Soltan. She is a slain innocent in the perilous journey towards Iran's democracy.

Iran's needless, mindless self-sabotaging suppression of The People's ballot has given the US, (a state sponsor of terror in West Asia and South Asia), an opening to assert itself as a champion of freedom and liberty in West Asia. The US is not. All the evidence proves the US is not. Iran therefore played right into the hands of the US. Instead of conducting a fair election, Iran chose to be brutally repressive of its own people. In fact Iran caused an internal division of its own electorate by pitting Moussavi's supporters, generally more educated, more female and more affluent, against Ahmedinajad's more traditionalist, more religious and more male supporters. The stolen election has unnecessarily caused disharmony among the fascinatingly diverse and divergent elements of the Iranian public.

The theocratic government of Iran created this dangerous wedge between its own people and Iran gave the US an opportunity to assert itself as the champion of freedom and civil liberties in West Asia. The US plays the Democracy card while invading, occupying, droning, displacing civil societies across regions. The US has been the main culprit in destabilizing democratic processes in Iran over several decades, beginning with the overthrow of Mossadegh, the propping up of the Shah and the support of Iraq against Iran in a bloody decade long war. The US continues to be a major force for destabilization throughout West Asia, which the US from its neo-imperial vantage point of dominant power calls the Middle East.

It remains to be seen whether Neda's brutal death will ignite and rekindle Iran's dormant democracy. It remains to be seen whether Iran's civil society will resist equally the 1) forces of Iran's repressive state apparatus, and also 2)turn its back on US attempts to gain strategic depth in Iran, by pretending to be a voice for civil rights and democracy in West Asia.

Q. If Iran's govt cannot accurately count electoral ballots, can Iran be trusted to safeguard the nuclear weapons it is developing?
A point to ponder -- the answer appears to be a qualified NO.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice

Washington Post copyright
The Iranian People Speak

By Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty
Monday, June 15, 2009

The election results in Iran may reflect the will of the Iranian people. Many experts are claiming that the margin of victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the result of fraud or manipulation, but our nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin -- greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday's election.
This Story

While Western news reports from Tehran in the days leading up to the voting portrayed an Iranian public enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad's principal opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, our scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran's provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead.

Independent and uncensored nationwide surveys of Iran are rare. Typically, preelection polls there are either conducted or monitored by the government and are notoriously untrustworthy. By contrast, the poll undertaken by our nonprofit organizations from May 11 to May 20 was the third in a series over the past two years. Conducted by telephone from a neighboring country, field work was carried out in Farsi by a polling company whose work in the region for ABC News and the BBC has received an Emmy award. Our polling was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

The breadth of Ahmadinejad's support was apparent in our preelection survey. During the campaign, for instance, Mousavi emphasized his identity as an Azeri, the second-largest ethnic group in Iran after Persians, to woo Azeri voters. Our survey indicated, though, that Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi.

Much commentary has portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in this election. But our poll found that only a third of Iranians even have access to the Internet, while 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all age groups.

The only demographic groups in which our survey found Mousavi leading or competitive with Ahmadinejad were university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. When our poll was taken, almost a third of Iranians were also still undecided. Yet the baseline distributions we found then mirror the results reported by the Iranian authorities, indicating the possibility that the vote is not the product of widespread fraud.

Some might argue that the professed support for Ahmadinejad we found simply reflected fearful respondents' reluctance to provide honest answers to pollsters. Yet the integrity of our results is confirmed by the politically risky responses Iranians were willing to give to a host of questions. For instance, nearly four in five Iranians -- including most Ahmadinejad supporters -- said they wanted to change the political system to give them the right to elect Iran's supreme leader, who is not currently subject to popular vote. Similarly, Iranians chose free elections and a free press as their most important priorities for their government, virtually tied with improving the national economy. These were hardly "politically correct" responses to voice publicly in a largely authoritarian society.

Indeed, and consistently among all three of our surveys over the past two years, more than 70 percent of Iranians also expressed support for providing full access to weapons inspectors and a guarantee that Iran will not develop or possess nuclear weapons, in return for outside aid and investment. And 77 percent of Iranians favored normal relations and trade with the United States, another result consistent with our previous findings.

Iranians view their support for a more democratic system, with normal relations with the United States, as consonant with their support for Ahmadinejad. They do not want him to continue his hard-line policies. Rather, Iranians apparently see Ahmadinejad as their toughest negotiator, the person best positioned to bring home a favorable deal -- rather like a Persian Nixon going to China.

Allegations of fraud and electoral manipulation will serve to further isolate Iran and are likely to increase its belligerence and intransigence against the outside world. Before other countries, including the United States, jump to the conclusion that the Iranian presidential elections were fraudulent, with the grave consequences such charges could bring, they should consider all independent information. The fact may simply be that the reelection of President Ahmadinejad is what the Iranian people wanted.

Ken Ballen is president of Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, a nonprofit institute that researches attitudes toward extremism. Patrick Doherty is deputy director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. The groups' May 11-20 polling consisted of 1,001 interviews across Iran and had a 3.1 percentage point margin of error.

For more on polling in Iran, read Jon Cohen's Behind the Numbers.



Anonymous said...

"nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the [2009 presidential] vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin -- greater than his actual apparent margin of victory".


Chithra.KarunaKaran said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks so very much for pointing me in the direction of the Poll thru the URL you kindly provided to my Blog. Writing from India during a summer break from my faculty job at The City University of New York, I was not as widely read on the Iran election result as I had hoped to be b4 writing my blog.

However, I am making the assessment that Neda's brutal death will serve as a lightning rod that will ignite new demands for democracy in Iran. I personally supported Ahmadinejad as the better candidate given the current geopo9litics of Iran. He is likely to play into the hands of the US. I support Iran nuclear capability. But I also want Iran to be a more respectfully divergent society. I don't want to be ordered to wear a head scarf if I visit Itan. Any Iranian can come to India and we wont order you to wear a headscarf. Freedome with responsibility cannot be symbolic -- it has to be REAL.
Again thx for your helpful post. I learned from you.

Chithra.KarunaKaran said...

Sorry I meant to say Ahmadinejad is LESS likely to play into the hands of the US.That is why I supported him.
But democracy needs discussion and respect for divergence and dissent....my comment see above.