We all hope that the people of Iran can rise up long enough to get a positive reaction from the government or even to follow through with another revolutionary sweep to power by a new generation, but a question persists. Are there really enough wealthy and middle class progressive Iranians to hold onto power in Iran? If you take the demographics of Iran’s electorate and their ideological leanings you can begin to see a familiar political playing field. Iran is a completely different political landscape from the United States, but during this era of social change and rapid cultural evolution, some of the same rules apply.
I’ve a heard a few arguments that this election could be legitimate, but they are flimsy, few and far between. Check STRATFOR, “Western Misconceptions Meet Iranian Reality”, for the best of these attempts at explaining a whale of a statistical anomaly. This article warrants a thumbs down in my book, but it raises a good point that I want to explore further. Coming back down to reality, however, and comparing provincial results between Iranian elections in 2005 and 2009 highlights the impossibility of such a tectonic demographic and political shift in the 2009 results. In the Iranian province of Lorestan for example, all conservative candidates combined received only 20 % of the vote in 2005, while Ahmadinejad got 71 % of the vote all by himself in 2009 (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/06/iran_numbers/) .
This would be equivalent to three quarters of the liberals in America voting for George W. Bush in the 2004 elections, not likely by even a long shot. I’m not saying that Ahmadinejad couldn’t have won, I’m saying that he couldn’t have won by this margin.
It’s becoming more and more clear that Ahmadinejad and his ruling government have behaved like children changing their grades at school. If they had changed their Ds to Cs it would’ve been believable, but these children changed their Ds to As. Now when we look at all the other past report cards these kids brought home before, we realize that no conservative candidate ever got straight As like this before, especially not during such a hotly contested election.
Putting aside the legitimacy of the elections for now, we need to examine what similarities can be found between our experiences and Iran’s. What am I talking about? Red vs blue states in America and red vs blue provinces in Iran. In the past and especially in 2000, 2004 and 2008, America witnessed a political tug of war between the rural heartland red states and the urbanized developed coastal states. People in the blue states are generalized as big city liberals and people in the red states are even more dismissively labeled the fly-over (a reference to the middle states that those big city liberals “fly-over” when going from coast to coast). Currently, the large population centers on America’s coasts combined with swing states to bring victory to the liberal progressive side of the U.S. electorate. What does this teach us about Iran?
Well, Iran contains a progressive urban population with better access to education, non-agrarian employment opportunities and communications with the outside world that is surrounded by a rural population with less education, agrarian employment opportunities and very little communication outside of their village. The urbanites are not atheistic, but they are definitely not considered as pious as those in the countryside. Sound familiar? We basically have the same dynamic at work here, but the back and forth has been going on just a little bit longer in the US and the long term trend hands the urban population centers the advantage in this country. Is that the case in Iran?
Eventually, one would think this dynamic would trend the same way everywhere including Iran, but look at how this has worked out in the United States. Such a contrasting demographic split along ideological lines in America has provided us with a severely limiting two party system that often swings the nation back and forth like a pendulum instead of forward. This one step forward two steps back cycle could evolve in Iranian politics as well, which would be a damn shame in this 3rdpartyblogger’s opinion.
Today in Iran you see two competing groups rallying in the streets of Tehran. One side gathers green clad supporters from the city itself and the other buses in supporters of the incumbent from the countryside. This leaves the persistent question above. Could a new revolution in Iran survive and establish itself successfully? And if they did this, would they be stifling the anger and resentment of millions of poor religious Iranians in the countryside?
For more information on this, I would ask the conservative thinkers of this nation for insight. After all, the rulers of Iran and their rural conservative base fall into roughly (and I mean roughly) the same ideological category as America’s conservatives, so they should be capable of understanding the chances a “LIBERAL” urban elite and their “PROGRESSIVE” ideas have in Iran.
It must be admitted, when all is said and done in Iran, that the forces of liberal democratic reason must overcome the forces of conservative religiosity.
A conservative fear of change and the impending loss of religious and family values allows the incumbents to remain in power, that and a fraudulent election. If we could just get some notes from Karl Rove and W. on where the Iranian government is coming from then we could really gain some valuable insight.
P.S. Post. Recent information from Ken Ballen at Terror Free Tomorrow on CNN: His organization took a poll in Iran three weeks before the election which showed Ahmadinejad holding a significant lead. Obviously, polls cannot be used to support the lofty numbers seen in the actual election, but another significant find of Mr. Ballen’s came up as well. His poll also found that a significant percentage of Ahmadinejad’s supporters expressed a desire for more individual freedom and government reform. In this case, we must conclude that Ahmadinejad’s recent actions in the suppression of the Iranian protesters could be damaging his base. If he keeps this up, hopefully his followers will begin to defect and the opposition in Iran will grow.