Little-known Teheran mayor and hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the run-off for the Iranian presidency in a development that indicates the Guardian Council has had enough of negotiating with the West and appeasing the burgeoning democracy movement in Iran:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran who has invoked Iran’s 1979 revolution and expressed doubts about rapprochement with the United States, won a runoff election Friday and was elected president of the Islamic republic in a landslide, the Interior Ministry announced early Saturday.
Ahmadinejad defeated Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former two-term president who had won the first round of voting last week and was attempting to appeal to socially moderate and reform-minded voters. …
With 85 percent of votes counted, a spokesman for the Guardian Council, which oversees Iran’s electoral process, said returns showed Ahmadinejad leading with 61.8 percent of the vote, to 35.7 for Rafsanjani. Officials said 47 percent of eligible voters turned out, down from 63 percent in the first round.
The lower turnout is significant. The reformers supposedly planned to turn out for Rafsanjani, the former president that tried to lay claim to the modernist vote, but the drop of sixteen points shows deep dissatisfaction with the first round of voting. In fact, Publius Pundit has more evidence that the second round has just as much fraud attached to the turnout report, and therefore the final counts, as was the case from the first round of voting. Even with the fraud, the Iranians still reported the lower number, which indicates that even the Council knows that their fraud won’t pass muster.
Obviously, then, the little-known Ahmaninejad was the Guardian Council’s choice all along. What does that tell us? It tells us that the GC feels that Iranian culture has drifted too far away from shari’a and the ideals of Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution. In fact, Ahmadinejad explicitly stated that the revolution wasn’t staged to bring freedom to the Iranian people. It’s not exactly the kind of rhetoric that one expects to hear from an electoral candidate.
If that’s what the GC wants to communicate, it made a big mistake. With the democracy movements flourishing but willing in some part to support a character like Rafsanjani against Ahmadinejad, it would have given the mullahs the opportunity to co-opt the movement, at least to some degree. Now, however, the mullahs have clearly told these people that they will never have any hope of access to the political system. What options do the students and other pro-democracy activists have now within the system? All this will do will convince the most active that any change will require action outside of the current Iranian political system.
The mullahs fear dissension more than anything else. Unfortunately for them, they have chosen the course that almost guarantees a revolution, and probably sooner rather than later.