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June 18, 2005

The Moment of Truth
Guest Author: Jafar Rezaei

"Dark Truth," © Sabin Corneliu Buraga.

According to the Ministry of Interior of the reformist government of Mr. Khatami, the reformist candidate Dr. Moeen came in the fifth place in the elections of this Friday and about 28 million participated in the elections.

There are basically only two possible alternatives. The results are rigged or they aren't. No matter which one of the above is the case, blaming the pro-boycott camp for the low vote is meaningless and ridiculous. In the first case, their candidate has actually won. In the second case, given the high turnout and the low rank of their candidate, the participation of those who boycotted the elections wouldn't have changed the results in any reasonable expectation.

Either way, those who advocated participation in this election made a very terrible mistake and dealt a very heavy blow to the process of the move towards democracy in Iran, as I will try to show in this article.

Alternative 1: The results are rigged: If so, assuming Moeen was truly in the first or the second rank, the cheating must have been extremely monumental. The question the voting advocates have to ask themselves is: why did they participate and called others, in such huge numbers, to participate in a system where such amount of cheating is permissible, even when the executive responsible for holding that election was controlled by the so-called reformist side? Whether it was due to the Bassijis interference or some other means is irrelevant. They advocated voting for a president that can't prevent such a blatant fraud in such a supposedly important election.

Furthermore, if this is the case, the pro-voting campaigners must have succeeded in increasing the number of voters considerably for their candidate to have reached, in the unrigged reality, the top two ranks. Thus, using the excuse of cheating cannot lift the responsibility of their decision off their shoulders. On the contrary, it exacerbates it. For if this is the case, they are the ones who have made possible this huge turnout for such a non-transparent system.

Alternative 2: The results are more or less correct, leaving room only for the usual procedure of adding a certain percentage to the total number of ballots cast. In this case, the pro-participation advocates basically provided the regime with the large number of votes it so desperately needed, despite the fact that the chances of their candidate to win the election were so slim. This might seem as paradoxical at first: if their candidate didn't win so many votes, what has the large number of participants got to do with them and their campaigning?

The answer is, had they done the right thing and joined the boycott of elections and so helped in forming a voice against participation, this could have become the dominant paradigm of the society and led to a much lower turnout than what we see now.

Some will undoubtedly start blaming the people and repeat the worn out excuse that the talk of freedom and democracy is futile for such a people as ours. This is not true. The people have been extremely patient with this reform, but masses need direction and correct messages. When you bombard them with sophistries, wrong messages and show them only dead-ends, that is where you finally reach. No democratic society was from the beginning made of intellectual philosophers (and is not even today). This is an excuse for passivity. It is not the people, but most of the activists and political players that are ignorant, incompetent and out of touch with reality.

The lessons to be learned are many. The most important is the fact that the heads of real power are acting in unison to navigate in troubled waters and save the regime. The myth of enmity between Khamenei and Rafsanjani has to be thrown away. In my opinion, their real important objective in this election has been to win as many votes as possible, break the boycott, and to prevent the younger, hot-headed and less-sophisticated hardliner aspirants to come to power in the current international conditions. The reformists were manageable and not important. Using them was a calculated risk. They would have needed such a huge turnout to win that if they did win, that was considered worthwhile. Those who will tell the shots will remain the same anyway It was important that the international image is left unharmed by extreme hardliners.

There still remains one possibility of fraud: Ahmadinejad could very well have been raised over Karroubi by cheating. If so, the reason should be clear by now. They need another huge turnout for the second round. People must be given enough incentive to participate; and preventing Ahmadinejad from winning will give them exactly that. In any case, it is quite certain now that Rafsanjani is going to be the winner, even by cheating the results if necessary.

The other important lesson is that some political leaders, activists and writers should be completely ignored from now on. They will only create noise and confuse the situation. The Participation Front (Mosharekat), The Islamic Revolutionary Mujahideen Organization (Mojahedin-e Enghelaab), The Freedom Movement (Nehzat Azadi) and their supporters are finished. Instead others who both understand the situation and have proven honest and willing to act should be supported.

This article is not to beat a dead horse. I believed it was necessary because old excuses will be repeated again for certain in the coming days to justify this mistake. If we still insist on remaining blind, only worse kinds of defeat will await us in the future. By rejecting a total boycott democracy in Iran lost an important battle on Friday. There would not be another such an opportune moment in the near future. This chance was missed. There is now the time to cut the losses and begin the real grass-root struggle for a referendum. The first step must be the boycott of the second round of this "elections." It is finally time to understand the simple fact that freedom is not free.

Jafar Rezaei was born in Mashhad, an important religious city northeast of Iran. He moved to Tehran, where he went to university and studied Chemical Engineering. This is his second attempt at an orderly written presentation of his thoughts on a political matter. Read the first one here.
SG at June 18, 2005 06:28 PM [permalink]:


28 million Iranians rejected the boycott.

Enough said.

Babak S at June 18, 2005 06:44 PM [permalink]:

And 25 million rejected Moeen shall we say? And 22 million rejected Rafsanjani, and 22 million rejected Ahmadi Nejad, and so on more rejected others. What are we left with? "Everyone please shut up and go home, you are all rejected!"

SG at June 18, 2005 06:56 PM [permalink]:

If what you say is true, then had those who voted for Moeen joined the boycotters, then still 25 million would reject the boycott.

Now, beside "Moeen voters", who else, or --let me be precise-- what type of voters, might one hope to have joined the boycott?!

SG at June 18, 2005 06:59 PM [permalink]:

Just for the record, my previous comment was a response to your comment in its original form. That is, only your first sentence. You then added some more stuff to it.

Boycott was from the beginning a *fantastic* idea.

Babak S at June 18, 2005 07:11 PM [permalink]:

Er, let me correct myself: those who did not vote, some 18 million actually rejected all the candidates, so that number must be added: Rafsanjani was rejected by 40 million, and so on upward. Counting this way, boycott was rejected by a fewer number of people and is the clear winner!!

By the way, those who think the boycotters made Moeen: How about Karrubi's votes, or even Mehr Alizade's votes. So, aren't those to blame by the same logic?

Babak S at June 18, 2005 07:42 PM [permalink]:

One more comment: the numbers I present are not to show that the boycott was good, or fantastic. They are to show that this approach, this numerology, is incorrect. What do the votes represent? Nobody really knows! To know, there must be models that need other bits of information that are not available.

As I have said many times before and repeat here one last time: An idea such as of boycott must be criticized and perhaps refuted not based on the number of people who vote (out of fear, gut feelings, etc.) when a meaningful discussion has not taken place yet, but on reason. The reasons may refer to the "experiments" of boycott and its already known results.

One-liner at June 18, 2005 07:44 PM [permalink]:

I was an advocate of voting for moeen, but I don't blame the boycotters if they thought it's the best feasible way for Iran toward democracy. But whoever expressed an oppinion as an adventure in activism assuming it's inconsequential, just to see how (and if) this toy (Iran) reacts, not to do the best thing for the country was irresponsible. Whoever saw this as a computer game to be played on a laptop did slightly an immoral thing. Immoral but not stupid.

JRez at June 18, 2005 08:54 PM [permalink]:

Just to clarify some of my ideas:
I don't think the succss of Ahmadinejad was expected by the heads of power structure. I think - of course these are guesses,no way to know any of them for sure - that they were counting on Moeen to come up with Rafsanjani. The military folks are still too weak to take control, but there is no doubt tbe militarists are getting stronger.

I agree that numbers by themselves are meaningless. What boycott needed from the activists, writers and intellectuals was clarification and a common voice. I think a 50% turnout and a strong solid camp behind boycott should have been considered a success.
It wouldn't have been a huge success, but a success nevertheless.
The last parliament elections had a turnout of around 50% too, if I recall correctly.

This is a problem, but as I said in the comments of the previous article, it has to be worked on gradually. Most of the pro-boycott activist did consider this election as only the first step. In the other thread, many argued against the boycott because it didn't have an all ready plan of action. the question is, now that everyone thinks all has to be reconsiderd and analysed from the beginning, do they have well planned layout for the next step? Didn't it turn out by necessity the way those supporting boycott were arguing for?

I think one reason the reformists made this mistake now is because of their experience in the last parliamentary elections. Where they did boycott the elections at the end. What they failed to see was that that boycott and this participation were both the same strategy. Both were a sign of dishonesty and lack of principle. They boycotted back then only after they were disqualified and they participated in this one because they were qualified. In both cases the decisive factor was their distance to power and no honest conviction.

Experiments are not childish games. Having to set them is inevitable. They are never pointless either. Experiments are made to test an already existing theory. There is always a lot of intention behind them.


SG at June 18, 2005 09:22 PM [permalink]:


While you're at it, please bear in mind that this website is visited by around 150 people (if the FToI poll is any indication) who have access to internet, can read English, and have the time and the interest to get themselves involved in exactly this type of activity. I wouldn't have you or anybody else here expect this "toy" to cause an action (or inaction) by several millions.

SG at June 18, 2005 09:35 PM [permalink]:

Just to be clear, I don't blame boycotters for Moeen's failure, because I believe all of them together made up such a (relatively) small population, that their participation would not have made a substantial difference anyway. In other words, if we claim Moeen was not elected because of an attempted boycott, then we're in fact taking boycotters too seriously and giving them too much credit.

Obviously (assuming the election was not rigged) the problem lies elsewhere. I don't know where, but maybe democracy is not (yet) for Iranians, or at least this particular type of democracy is not for us. For example, maybe we should elect a bunch of guys so they in turn select a president for us, like what happened in Iraq.

One-Liner at June 18, 2005 09:36 PM [permalink]:


This website doesn't have to be connected to the milions directly. Some of the 150 nodes connected to this webste may be connected to something of the order 100 through their weblogs. Or they may affect one person who writes in a popular website like gooya. The exponential dependence of the number of people at the end of the tree on the number of layers of nodes in between can make a website like this more than a toy. I don't say it necessarily is more than a toy but it may be. It will be nice if we somehow test this by trying to spread a rumor in this website and see if it ever reaches the millions in Iran

SG at June 18, 2005 09:45 PM [permalink]:

I don't deny that something somewhere in this universe at the right moment may trigger a young Iranian political genius to do or say something that starts a process that eventually would lead to the overthrow of the IRI. It just seems to me --especially after this election-- the likelihood of such an event originating from the world of internet is very much overestimated.

Bahram at June 19, 2005 05:13 AM [permalink]:

"...the pro-participation advocates basically provided the regime with the large number of votes it so desperately needed..."

The above sentence is quite naive and baseless. The regime does not desperately need any vote. There is absolutely no threshold for the level of participation in the elections that can trigger any time bomb in the regime. Any popular movement that is needed to overthrow any system is more likely to form and survive in a "motivated participating" society rather than in a "pessimistic boycotting" one.

JRez at June 19, 2005 06:09 AM [permalink]:

This is a small website with very limited viewers, and it is a plcae to discuss things like this. Trying to have a better understanding of important events, even among ourselves, is not a waste of time or energy. This is not the end of the world. There is future with more important challenges, and we are a small element in its shaping one way ro the other. We belong to the more educated portion of our society, don't you agree that we have a higher responsibilty to try to act more and more rationally and with open eyes as time goes by?Don't you think we also owe it to ourselves to see things better by presenting it in different lihgts and trying to refute each others assertions?

There is no reason to consider the boycott movement as pessimistic. It can be an active, principles and very optimistic activism, if done properly. It is an instance of nonviolent resistance and public disobedience.
Neithet is it the case that a "motivated participating society" is necessarily a good thing, when "participating" is meant as in official government approved events like this.
What we say on Friday is an example of this. When a significant part of the leading opposition groups keep telling people that they shoudl use the democratic opportunity of voting while they still have it and portray ffrightening future scenarios of a hardliner takeover that will abolish voting and other "republic" based institutions, and then many of those people, who have correctly lost faith in the competence of the "reformists" after voting for them in huge numbers in 4 important elections one after the other (the two presidential ones, the first city council election and one parilament election)and so to prevent the hardliners vote instead for Rafsanjani or Karroubi "moderate". Is this hard to understand?
Are we wrong to say many political leaders, activists and many of the educated elite failed to do their task of showing the way of a real meaningful struggle to the masses and of fighting against populistic opportunism, that leads to such outcomes, and instead became accomplices in pouring more fuel on those obstructing fears and strengthening them? Is this kind of "participation" worth it, with the more and more dangerous conditions the world is moving into?

JRez at June 19, 2005 07:41 AM [permalink]:

Many say what is written in the blogs are not influential on the masses. There is some truth in that. But the blogs do reach the human rights organizations and activists around the world. They should be used to bring about an international support for the prisoners, instead of inciting others to vote.

KristinaC at June 19, 2005 11:57 AM [permalink]:

I have to admit that I do not know nearly as much about Iranian politics. The sad thing is, that being said, I am more knowledgeable than most of my American counterparts. After taking an Islamic law class in law school, I became intrigued with Iran. I fully respect the Muslim peoples' rights to govern themselves. (I myself fell in love with the religion in just a few short weeks.) The Iranian people should be able to govern themselves through free and open elections, should that be your choice of governance. This means Iranians should be free to elect who they want, not who Ayatolla Khamenei favors or the West favors.

While I respect your opinions about boycott, the reality is that boycotting the election does, in a real sense, silence your voices. Does participation in a not-so-fair election have the same power as participation in a free and open election? No, but how can your voice affect change if it is silent?

While I in no way think my situation in American is the same that of the Iranians, let me draw a few similarities. I am opposed to the majority of the policies pursued by my government. I do not think that any one people in the world is better than any other. I feel like the leadership of my government pursues policies for their friends and the other elite while abadoning the lower and middle classes. When I go to the polls, I know that my vote will not be for the ultimate winner, but I making a statement just by voting. It is only a small step, but it a step nonetheless.

I can only hope that you are successful in effectuating the changes within your own country that you yourselves want. I would love for the day to come where I could come to your country, not as a Western tourist, but as a visitor there to experience the great culture of the Iranian people. Keep posting and keep trying to change things. Know that not all Americans think we are superior to others. That some of us think Human Rights are for all people, all over the world. That some of us support you in your struggle to obtain whatever YOU want not what the WEST wants.
Keep enlightening me and others.

TEN YEARS at June 20, 2005 02:21 PM [permalink]:

This is addressed to those of you who think "international pressure" can do sh!t:

"The current military junta came to power in Burma in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy uprising."

itchy_thoughts at June 20, 2005 02:44 PM [permalink]:

Hey guys:

I am trying to think outloud here (i.e. I haven't decided what I am doing on Friday, but here is a thought).

As I said it before, the second round of voting is just a sham meant to get people worked up and make them to vote Rafsanjani. His coronation was debated long time ago. He wouldn't have thrown his hat (i.e. turban) into this election race if leader's hand wasn't behind him. The system is pushing him forward to smooth over international rows over Iran's nuclear activities and so on. He is the only one that regime can trust in saving its butt in the current sticky political situation. Without him they have trouble weathering the upcoming storm -- I am not saying it would be impossible for them, but just difficult.

The point I am trying to make is that his coming to power is certain. Even if hypothetically Ahmadinejad's supporters outnumber Hashemi's voters, our good mullahs will adjust the numbers to let Rafsanjani win.

Moral conclusion: Don't make him a hero by your vote. There will be enough shocked and emotional people who are regretting their boycott by now.

It's funny to see people who voted inthe first round like me opt out and people who didn't care vote now.