15 June 2009

On defrauding the public, and then beating them up.

It's been interesting to watch events after the Iranian presidential election unfold over the last couple of days. A variety of (mostly Western) sources have claimed that Ahmadinejad could not plausibly have won in the 63% landslide specified in the official results. There is, of course, disagreement about how unlikely this result is, with some excellent commentary at the always reliable 538.com.

What I find more interesting, however, is how difficult it is for a regime to walk the fine line between falsifying elections in a remotely believable way vs. the more outrageous Saddam Hussein-style victory by 94%. I'm leaning toward some wide-scale fraud, supported mostly by the strange circumstances surrounding the third- and fourth-placed candidates who saw a ten-fold decrease in voter share, losing even their hometowns by enormous margins.

If this is true, then it illustrates how difficult it is for dictators in the 21st century to impose their rule by fiat, but keep a straight face about "free and fair" elections at the UN water cooler. I also find it strange that the powers that be, after rigging the election in a vaguely plausible way, have resorted to blocking the internet, disabling text messaging, and generally beating the shit out of anyone who disagrees with the party line.

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