Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 8:00
The Interior Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran has just officially announced that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to serve a second term. This news has come as a shock to some, but no surprise to others as he seals an overwhelming landslide victory.
The celebrations and tension will of course continue into the night and for the rest of the week as Mir Hussein Moussavi declares false results and unfair issues within the voting booths, however, the sheer difference in the vote percentage, and support for Ahmadinejad has shown that once again Iran’s high voting turnout has stunned the West with its ever growing strength and belief in the Islamic Republic.
I was fortunate enough to visit two polling stations in London, one in the Consulate Section of the Iranian Embassy, and the other in the Islamic Republic of Iran School, also in London.
As I witnessed the many protestors and press outside the consulate section, the support was clearly balanced between the two main candidates, (although it is worth a mention I could not find a single voter who claimed to be voting for the other two candidates). The school had a very different electoral populous however. Away from the media glitz, and protestors who threw paint over an official, the school was surprisingly just as busy, and from my personal view and self conducted exit poll, Ahmadinejad clearly took the majority of votes.
It really comes as no surprise that his victory was so big. Many fail to realise the supporters of Moussavi were the young elite rich of Northern Tehran, who already possess dual nationality to Western countries, and are merely trying to adapt their Western life styles to suit them in a selfish was in Tehran. (By selfish I mean allowing them more freedom to behave in the way that they enjoy). But one must not forget that Iran is not solely made up of this 1% ultra rich North Tehran populous, and Ahmadinejad’s supporters can be found in the majority of rural towns, countryside and cities, as well as the remaining massive population of Tehran.
The dust will soon settle both in Iran and the West, once this happens, we will begin to see the consequences of this election.
I will be looking closely at the reaction of Barack Obama, will he be returning the letter of congratulations Ahmadinejad sent, and will this send a message of finally cracking on with the bi-lateral diplomacy needed between the two states, safe in the knowledge that the terms have now be set, and that there are four solid years for the two leaders to find mutual interests.
Or will this lead to the more probable result of Ahmadinejad gaining more confidence in his second tenure as President of the Islamic Republic, leading to more national achievements and more defiance of ‘enemies’ in Iran’s next four years of foreign policy.
Recent EU and council elections in the UK showed a 30% turnout, Iran’s Presidential election was over 80%, therefore this strong voice is truly the opinion of the majority, which is more than can be said in the precedent case. There is no doubt that the scale and importance of the elections were not in the same league, but this kind of turnout is fairly common in Iran, and should be congratulated.
My final point brings me back to the Iranian School, this small and tucked away polling station seemed to have given a good indication of the election results. As a teacher there myself, I have followed this election closely with my students and their parents, and it has been a long accepted notion that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was going to serve his second term as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Now is the time to reach out to Iran and use this occasion to build up relations with the continuing government of Ahmadinejad, and to work on bi-lateral relations, regional security and more importantly the support and trust that Iran and the West need to build with each other to develop the nation into a serious contributor of peace and example setting in the region and international arena.