On Friday, Iranians go to the polls to choose a new president in an election that will have profound consequences throughout the globe, not least in the United States, where President Obama has expressed a desire for a thaw in relations with Iran.
Although some 400 candidates signed up to run for the office, the election has become a four-way race, with the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, facing off against the even more conservative former commander of Iran’s dreaded Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Rezaie; the popular reformist and former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi; and the perennial populist and leftist candidate—Iran’s very own Ralph Nader—Mehdi Karroubi. With only a few days to go, however, the contest is shaping up into a two-man contest—and an unusually bitter, increasingly raucous, and utterly absorbing one at that—between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.
Four years ago Ahmadinejad burst onto the political scene in Iran as a relatively unknown figure who shocked Iranians, and the world, by beating the powerful cleric and absurdly wealthy businessman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—whose net worth Forbes estimates at $1 billion—to become Iran’s first non-cleric president. Back then, Ahmadinejad ran on a platform of reforming the economy and rooting out corruption in the government.
Four years later, thanks both to a precipitous drop in oil prices and his administration’s reckless financial policies, Iran’s economy is on the verge of total collapse. As a result, Ahmadinejad has reinvented himself as the one candidate who could most effectively reach out to Barack Obama and responsibly open up the country to the international community—something all candidates agree must be done but with vastly different ideas about how to do so. In fact, Ahmadinejad’s campaign slogan is Ma Mitavanim…Farsi for “Yes, we can!”
...Perhaps the biggest surprise of these elections is the role the Internet is playing in the campaigns. Taking a page from the Obama playbook, all four candidates are on Facebook and Twitter (Mousavi’s Facebook page boasts more than 30,000 supporters). Huge, spontaneous rallies have been coordinate by text message.
It seems that, as with the previous elections, large urban centers, including conservative cities like Isfahan and Mashad, will go to Mousavi (it is difficult to find an Ahmadinejad supporter in Tehran!), while poorer and more rural voters are overwhelmingly supporting Ahmadinejad.
The article goes on, with insight from Iranian citizens. Must read.