Election-watch turns to Tehran following sigh of relief in Beirut

TEHRAN, IRAN - JUNE 09:  Supporters of preside...
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Thanks to all who followed up on the recent article on the Lebanese elections – the result appears to be (almost) the best of all possibilities for the future of this lovely country as the 14th March coalition retain the majority of parliamentary seats but without a clear mandate, with opposition Hezbollah and fellow-travellers retaining much the same position. The turnout was reported to be double that of 2005 but it would be wrong to credit recent US policy shifts and rhetoric for the result. The Lebanese have firm views on their own governance. The visit and comments from US Vice-President Joe Biden last month and even President Obama’s overtures in Cairo, are not responsible. The rifts in local politics remain firm and wide – a larger turnout still voted in similar proportions. There are still aspects which must play out. Syrian lackey Aoun and even Hezbollah may need to be appeased by the ruling clique in order to prevent veto of new legislation. Some backoffice deals will no doubt be needed to ensure a peaceful renewal of parliament.

So to Iran where a challenge to incumbent local hero and President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, comes in the guise of moderate candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a former Prime Minister. He (Mousavi) has been endorsed by former President Mohammad Khatami, another major reformer in his time. Ahmadinejad will be a tough nut to crack. Often forgotten, he was one of the student firebrands behind the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979; the incident which prompted the abortive US rescue attempt in Operation Eagle Claw and ultimately sabotaged the Carter presidency. A hardliner who has reversed many reforms, his stand against the US and other Western powers’ attempts to halt nuclear power (and potentially weapons) development has given him rock-star-like status in his own country. Whilst ultimate power in Iran remains with the Supreme Leader – Grand Ayotollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khamenei – the President remains the mouthpiece and most visible (to worldly eyes) representation of the Islamic Republic’s policy. Recent clampdowns – such as the blocking of social networking site Facebook within Iran’s borders – show the government’s determination to retain a strong grip on the populace. The result of Friday’s poll will be important for internal freedoms, Iran’s place in the world, and to its many sponsored groups in some of the most troubled areas of the world. Whatever your location, religion or nationality, the results of these Presidential elections potentially have an impact on your life.

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