Earlier this week, the Iranians held their Presidential elections. The two major candidates were the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Iran has been troublesome for the United States for many years, and under its Ahmadinejad, those troubles have continued. He has threatened to destroy Israel, pushed for the development of Iranian nuclear weapons, and Iran has been a sponsor of terrorist groups in the Middle East.
His opponent, Mousavi, wants to improve relationships with the West, improve the economy, and address some of the excesses of the morals police. To be sure, he couldn’t go that far with it: Iran’s civil government is controlled by its religious leadership, who had to approve all of the candidates. But at least it was a step in the right direction.
Preliminary polling data suggested that the election would be a close race: those favoring Mousavi, and his efforts for reform, would be closely matched by those favoring Ahmadinejad, his religious perspective, and the Iranian government subsidies provided under his leadership.
But the preliminary data were wrong: the incumbent Ahmadinejad swept the election with over 65% of the vote.
Either the election was rigged, or the Western pollsters and media somehow managed to disregard Ahmadinejad’s political base.
I don’t know which is the case. I suspect that (a) the Iranians won’t be particularly anxious to investigate the results, and (b) they won’t let others investigate, either. So we’ll probably never know for sure.
But why did we let ourselves believe that another alternative was possible?