Friday, June 12, 2009

FLASH: Mousavi Declares Victory

Mir Mousavi, the longshot challenger to Ahmadinejad in the Iranian presidential race, may have just won in the first round.

The election took place today, after weeks of very heavy street campaigning, with a party-like atmosphere. Mousavi was the leading reformist candidate, and started (seemingly) picking up support late in the campaign. Most Iranian elections go to two rounds (the first round being a free-for-all, the second being a run-off between the top 2 candidates if neither receives 50% of the vote); getting more than 50% in the first round would be unprecedented, especially in a race that went from Ahmadinejad-edged to very close only in the last few weeks. But today, large numbers of middle class, youth, and women packed the polls, in an election that is expected to have a greater than 80% turnout. Ahmadinejad's supporters tended to be more poor and rural.

A Mousavi victory would have significant implications for US and Iranian policy. He supports economic liberalization, detente with the West, and social reform. He is said to even have the political clout/connections to be able to stand up to and influence the religious leadership (a often-cited failing of the last reformist President that Iran had). It would give the US and Iran an at-least-4-year opportunity to start patching relations, and potentially work together to influence policy in the Middle East. More coming on the actual poll numbers as they arrive.
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