This apparently was a huge shock for the mainstream media. Large chunks of the Western media were irrationally expecting another clear sign that Obama’s speech had single-handedly revolutionized the Middle-East in a landside victory for Moussavi. Ahmadinejad’s triumph, however, didn’t come as a surprise for anyone diligent enough to study the pre-election polling. Moussavi has cried foul, claiming, “I am the absolute winner of the election by a very large margin.” Given the 30 point margin of victory reported for Ahmadinejad these charges seem highly dubious.
Ahmadinejad was supported by the rural poor, the urban working class and conservative elements within Iran’s clerical elite. His opponents not only criticized his defiant foreign policy, but also his government’s state-interventionist spending of oil wealth. During the election campaign Mousavi proposed an austerity program to try to curtail inflation and reinvigorate economic growth, obviously at the expense, short-term at least, of the most economically depressed members of Iranian society.
Oil prices are on the way back up around the world and inflation is only in the high teens, which isn’t that unreasonable for a developing country that relies on the export of a commodity. It’s hard to see imminent economic collapse on the horizon like many of business elite that backed Moussavi warned of.
I’m not going to applaud the election results, which were undoubtedly a blow against the Obama-brand of hegemony and a display of elementary class consciousness by Iranian workers, due to my natural sympathies for the progressive forces within the Iranian youth that threw their hope and energy behind Moussavi’s campaign.
It’s my humble (and ultimately irrelevant) hope that the feminist and secularist Iranian students don’t get discouraged and become depoliticized by this result. Instead they need to renew agitation and organization independently of the Iranian political system. In a “democratic” system as illiberal as Iran’s it’s clear that any real change will have to happen in civil society and not in the electoral sphere. This change only has the chance of gaining the support of working-class Iranians if it doesn’t wed itself to neoliberal economic dogma. Certainly progressive forces in Iran have a rich revolutionary legacy to look back upon for inspiration.
The Nation’s LaRouchite gremlin and others have documented significant voting irregularities, so my dismissal of the claims as “dubious” may have been premature. I do love how Robert Dreyfuss describes Ahmadinejad as a “radical-right” and his largely working class supporters as “paramilitary” forces. It’s the kind of knee-jerk, simpleton analysis I’ve come to expect from the always outspoken and only occasionally well-informed Dreyfuss. That being said that article is actually well worth reading, because the bulk of it is commentary by dissident Ebrahim Yazdi. It should be acknowledge that Yazdi has shown great hostility to leftist and progressive forces throughout his life, the same can be said of his Freedom Movement of Iran, but his sentiments have been echoed by many election observers.