Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stolen Elections: Iran 2009 vs. Serbia 2000

It's usually wrong to draw explicit comparisons between climactic events in nations as different as Serbia and Iran, but since I've written a lot about Serbia and a bit about Iran (see here), I will venture one broad comparison to argue that what's happening as I write this in Iran is much much more serious and potentially bloody.

It is very hard to say who actually won Iran's election, and most reliable news sources have refrained from officially dubbing the results as fraudulent. (Others have been less restrained, and even U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was moving in the direction of dubiety on Meet the Press this morning.)

But if the election in Iran was stolen, the regime's pinning of the fraud on such startling results -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 62.6% and Mir Hossein Mousavi: 33.8% -- is audacious.

The attempts by Slobodan Milosevic to steal the Serbian election in 2000 that led to his ouster from power was much less audacious. Even Milosevic did not declare victory, but argued that he;'d won enough for a runoff -- despite the reformers' exit polls that estimated that Kostunica had won over 50% of the ballot and thus avoided a runoff.

The democratic coalition opposing Milosevic felt that they were in a strong enough position to resist a new poll and then called for the demonstrations that led to October 5 and the fall of Milosevic. (Bager nije buldozer.)

The Iranian polity is clearly much more splintered than Serbia in 2000-- and the sheer audacity of the 60 plus figure of victory is a conscious provocation. Milosevic clearly just wanted one more chance to try and rig the election. What Ahmadinejad and his supporters have done here is an invitation to a throwdown. Or a coup under the pretense of elections.

One last observation (and, hence, my use of the Otpor image to accompany this post): The bursts of violent street protests that have accompanied the election results in Iran are understandable, but highly unlikely to overturn the result. What Otpor and the democratic opposition in Serbia proved was that a campaign to out soft totalitarianism must rely on careful planning in which provocation of the regime is used surgically. Wild lashing out won't get the job done.


Mrki said...

The Iranian demonstrations remind me on 9 mart demonstrations in Belgrade 1991
But mind that this demonstrations were not violent per se, but the first gathering of opposition in Serbia and the moment when we (the people) understood we have the power.
This was frightening to the regime and they reacted with brutal violence ( I think they were very frightened).
But after this we had a long decade of political education, done by independent media, NGO-s and oppositional political parties. We had a decade long time to learn how to organize,demonstrate and oppose. Iranians are at the begining of long hard battle in my opinion, if our experience in Serbia can be paralleled with Iranian experience.

Nancy Harris said...

Iran Council certifies the victory and UN congratulates Ahmadinejad, despite massive opposition protests. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad keeps power but loses legitimacy. For the Iranian people, Keep hope alive, Hope begins in the Dark.