Disputed elections are becoming a common feature witnessed all over the world. Each month, and year, the world finds itself faced by the challenge of election disputes that culminate in large protests marred by violence that lead to loss of property and life. It is so sad that these ugly scenarios of disputed elections continue to recur in our Nations year in year out, despite the previous lessons learnt from elsewhere. During election campaigns, Iran had boasted of having achieved the status of the most democratic nation in Middle East, and so the big test awaited it.
One notable thing about Iran’s 2009 election was that there was a huge turnout of voters and Iranians had gone to vote in what they believed would be the Republic’s historical elections (Ya’ari, 2009). These elections were not only important to Iranians but would also affect Iran’s relationship with neighboring countries and the United States by extension bearing in mind their tainted relationship. The hopes were high and changes were expected to be brought once there was a regime change.
The outcome was far from many people’s expectations because the presidential election was rigged and what followed were protests and violence which was countered by military and police force (Taylor, 2009). Rigged election in Iran On June 12, 2009 after the elections, I can imagine the betrayal the Iranians felt after realizing that despite their spirited efforts to bring change in the Iranian leadership, that change remained an elusive dream. According to protestors who took part in the revolt, the election results were rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist challenger was projected to win the election and as the cries of foul over the elections rose from the protesters demanding justice, Mousavi called on his supporters to reject a government of dictatorship and lies because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fraudulently been declared the winner (Slackman & Fathi, 2009). Ahmadinejad had won with sixty-five percent which was four-fifths more than what the ballots contained.
This is a clear indication that the will of the people was not respected as polling stations were closed early and observers were also excluded in the counting process. For this reason, Iran’s Islamic Leader was advised to intervene but he too might have been involved as he works closely with Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad had pushed aside the views of mullahs and clerics and assumed what was viewed as a military dictatorship. Responding to the protests, Mir Hossein Mousavi said that declaring Ahmadinejad as the winner was a “treason to the votes of the people” (Sofer, Cohen & Reuters, 2009).
The outcome dimmed the analysts’ prospects of change in Iranian regime and it is in no doubt that many were heart broken on the realization that Ahmadinejad still remained their leader. Al Jazeera and other Agencies (2009) pointed out that the disruption of communication in the late hours of voting and vote counting was a clear indication that something fishy was happening. The information was censored such that only the state radio and television aired the vote count.
The two state media also refused to air Mousavi’s press conference that was held that night. Communication through text messaging remained down nationwide and various pro-Mousavi websites were rendered inaccessible, a strategy aimed at ensuring Mousavi could not communicate with his supporters, and more so to ensure the election news did not spread that fast and cause protests (Sofer, Cohen & Reuters, 2009). This move endeavored to cover up the election rigging and ensure the public was less polarized over the same. Aftermath of Iran’s Election
Protests and violence erupted all over Iran with the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi protesting for what emerged as a denial of the people’s rights. Some Iranians could not vote because polling stations were closed earlier than was expected and there was massive rigging in favor of the incumbent Ahmadinejad. According to Taylor (2009), those who had rallied behind Mousavi were upset by the loss and ignited by suspicions of rigging, marched in streets peacefully but in some cases they violently expressed their anger and frustrations.
Iranian forces joined by hardliners who supported President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad descended on the peaceful protesters with such a force and made arrests in their efforts to quell the protests. Those allied to Ahmadinejad also held victory demonstrations showing their happiness with the elections. I detect mischief in the latter demonstrations simply because there seemed to be a force behind the victory demonstrations in that influential people within the circles of Ahmadinejad may have mobilized people to counter the demonstrations in support of Mousavi (Dareini, 2009).
The streets of Tehran became the arena of riots and but this was brought by security forces and hardliners in support of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as they attempted to disrupt the peaceful demonstrations. There were also differences among the clerics as some differed with the supreme leader over the result for they sided with protesters alleging that there was voter fraud. The demonstrations left twenty people dead and thousands others injured in the ugly confrontations, whereas the human rights activists claim that over two hundred prominent people cannot be traced (Lake, 2009).
On July 18, 2009, crowds resumed protests on Tehran streets in commemoration of the 1999 students’ demonstrations and also air their grievances over the June 12 election results which were flawed. They chanted anti-government slogans expressing their discontent over the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad who orchestrated the take over of the people’s vote. According to Lake (2009), the security forces had arrested over two thousand people from June 12; whereas most of them have been released others remain locked up for claiming their rights which had been abused.
Just like in other countries, the situation in Iran remain tense with rallies being banned as they are avenues for people congregating and further reminding the illegitimate government of their discontent of the dictatorship in place. The world has also seen protests all over the world of Iranians in the Diaspora who are in solidarity with Iranians inside Iran. These protests in United States, Britain and in other countries indicate that the world leaders and especially advocates of democracy should stand together and strongly condemn the dictatorial government in Iran (Ya’ari, 2009).
Crackdown on the media Other media houses have been closed down and foreign journalists expelled from the country. A Censor has been put up on the information aired to the public and even the reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi has been barred from holding any press conference. Most channels of communication in Iran have been shut down such that even the internet is mostly down (Sofer, Cohen & Reuters, 2009). Iran’s judiciary has been on the forefront calling for websites and television channels that criticize the government.
Foreign media was the first to be ejected from Iran as it was argued that it interfered with the country’s matters. This is a government strategy of anarchy whereby the media which is the eye of the society is crippled not to bring out the evil deeds the government directs to its people (Taylor, 2009). Despite all these concerted efforts to ensure the evils are not known to the world, Iranians are using their phones to capture those moments that tell of their plight and transmit them secretly for the world to see.
Whether the Iranian government likes it or not, the power of the media is will penetrate in spite of the sanctions and bring out its evils for the world to see. Also they can try to silence Iranians, they cannot deter the spirit of change sweeping across the country (Al Jazeera and Agencies, 2009). The strong urge to get rid of evil-minded tyrants will continue to prevail whether there is the media to criticize the government or not. World’s Reactions The world was watching when Iranians turned out to cast their votes for the change that they needed.
According to Adams (2009), Israel was not surprised by the elections results only that it called on the international community to be on the alert due to the vehement quest of Iran to set up a nuclear program which is a threat to its neighbors and the region as a whole. In Germany, Chancellor Merkel called for a vote recount to establish the real winner of the election , something that was not received well by the Iranian government. France and Italy on the other hand strongly opposed how the regime’s security forces brutally handled the protesters as a result of which twenty people died.
In this case, Europe has been more vocal of the issue of Iran than United States, which did only condemn the killing of protesters (Adams, 2009). Russia, an ally of Iran, backed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but called for constitutional resolution to the election crisis. China joined Middle East to back the election of Ahmadinejad with the Middle East expressing the western meddling claims on Tehran. Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President on the contrary, congratulated Ahmadinejad’s victory, ironically calling it a win in a democratic nation (Sofer, Cohen & Reuters, 2009).
Conclusion In viewing the current trends experienced in the world, democracy has been put under a serious test. Elections have not given rise to the people’s choice and many a times, instead of reflecting the right changes expected by voters, they have turned out to bring violence and deaths to the citizens demanding their rights to their elected leader being respected, and not the incumbent tyrants and dictators resuming the nations’ leadership through unfair means.
These cases have been experienced in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and now in Iran. It is a high time for leaders to lead through the will of the people other than imposing themselves on people who have rejected them at the ballot. This can also be minimized if other leaders in the world despise the defaulters of democracy instead of congratulating them. Moreover, citizens have a right to peaceful demonstrations.