Today's the big day, and turnout seems to be high (which experts have emphasized would likely be a boon to Ahmadinejad's opponent, Mir Hossein Moussavi):
All well and good, but do you imagine that Ambassador Bolton would have prevented the elections of Libya, Sudan, Algeria, and Iran? It is surely regrettable that the UN does not do what the US would like, but why would one expect that it would? Given that most of the world is governed by regimes for which we have little regard, we can confidently expect that they will take self-serving actions (just as we do) for which we will have little regard.
The UN, in short, is composed of 192 countries. Railing against the world body for the existence of these countries is neither productive nor particularly insightful. Nice to see a TNR commenter call Peretz out on that.
Of all the commentary and analysis of Iran's upcoming elections that I have read, this strikes me as definitively the worst. Titled "Iran's Potemkin elections" and penned by Con Coughlin, of London's Daily Telegraph, the piece ledes off (pun intended) with this bombshell: "Only candidates vetted by the ruling clerics have been allowed to stand." No! You mean that the Ayatollah had some say in determining who was allowed to run for election? I am shocked. Shocked.
Sarcasm aside, it is indeed puzzling why anyone would be surprised by the one part of Iran's power structure that seems relatively transparent. Twelve members of what is called the Guardian Council -- six picked directly by the Ayatollah, six more or less indirectly so -- are the ones to pre-approve candidates. This year, though more than 400 offered their name -- including women, who were allowed to do so for the first time -- only four survived the cut.
While many Iran hawks spend the bulk of their time pointing to Ahmadinejad's hostile and ham-handed provocations, others contend that Iran is the plaything of the "mad mullahs." Neither of these oversimplifications is accurate. The Ayatollah and his clerics exercise a good deal of power, for certain. But, in a telling example, Khamenei did not, by all accounts, prefer Ahmadinejad to win the first time around -- nor was he at all expected to do so -- and it is not clear whether Ahmadinejad or Mir Hossein Moussavi (who is not, as Coughlin calls him, a "conservative hard-liner") will prevail this year. That all we can expect out of what has been a very interesting election campaign is "more of the same" is also very much not necessarily true.
And I know the phrase "Potemkin" has come to mean any sort of façade, but Coughlin definitely has his history backwards. The original Potemkin village was designed to deceive the Empress Catherine the Great; in this case, it's the Supreme Leader who knows more about what's going on than anyone else -- though not, most probably, who's going to win this election.
(image from flickr user Shahram Sharif under a Creative Commons license)
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today that some 25,000 Afghans call the Independent Election Commission (IEC) every week to get information on the 20 August presidential and provincial council elections.
Providing details on voter registration, polling place, and the election date, the hotline is one of those small, subtle ways that technology can further the UN's -- and Afghans' -- goals. The fact that operators sometimes receive threats from callers claiming to be part of the Taliban may make their job more dangerous, but it also underscores how important this service is to the growth of Afghan democracy.
(image from flickr user rybolov under a Creative Commons license)
In other election-related news...
The reactions here in the United States to the Lebanese elections yesterday are generally of surprised relief. The Hezbollah-led alliance that many feared would come out on top had a disappointing showing, and the "March 14" coalition led by Saad Hariri, the former prime minister's son, had a very good day.
The elections were a matter of internal politics, and the most relevant dynamic was likely Lebanese dissatisfaction with Hezbollah. (Though, indeed, Hezbollah does seem more comfortable, and possibly more formidable, as an opposition party.) I don't think Obama's speech was directed toward Lebanese voters, and this is a good thing; with the Iranian elections in just a few days, the U.S. would do well to continue this policy of not meddling, even rhetorically, in elections they cannot control. Whatever happens, the results are likely to prove, if anything, just as unpredictable.
(image from flickr user Sana Tawileh under a Creative Commons license)
But that is not all the story. A sufficient number of Dutch people (in their wisdom) decided to vote for the centrist, pro-European D-66 party to give D-66 three seats in Brussels. This means that my friend, Marietje Schaake, will become an MEP.
Marietje, 30, is one of Europe's brightest and most promising young leaders. Her election is great news not only for Marietje and her supporters, but for those of us around the world who are firm believers in human rights and minority rights.
She will also bring with her to Brussels impeccable transatlantic credentials.
Ed note: This article was published in Open Democracy under a creative commons license. The author, Hugo Brady, offers a smart take on the elections for the European Parliament, which take place throughout the E.U. later this week. Enjoy.
Between June 4th and June 7th, Europeans will cast their votes to elect a new European Parliament (EP). Recent opinion polls indicate that they will do so without much enthusiasm. Indeed, there is every chance that the average turnout will be the lowest ever – it has fallen at every election since the first time that Europeans directly elected their MEPs in 1979, and sank to 45.6 per cent in 2004. But despite the prevailing apathy, this election matters. During its next five-year term, the EP will influence what the EU decides in areas as diverse as financial services, trade, climate change, energy security and immigration.
This is perhaps telling. Since the United States made its intention to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council known, about a month and a half ago, skeptics have wondered whether it could gain enough votes in the supposed "dictators' club" of the General Assembly. These murmurings persisted even after the United States and New Zealand -- ahem -- agreed that the former would run unopposed, lowering the standard for membership to a simple 50% confidence vote. Would all the America-haters in the world fiendishly cast their ballots against the U.S., rebuking its much-publicized attempt to re-engage with the Council?
Based on yesterday's vote, not even close. The United States got a whopping 167 votes out of the 192 member General Assembly (just ten fewer than Belgium, and only 12 fewer than that global pariah, Norway). Seems like a pretty good sign that the rest of the world is happy to see the U.S. coming back inside the tent. (Unless, of course, countries voted the U.S. in simply to lull it into a sense of false security before unleashing their dastardly agendas – but even the paranoia-mongerers haven’t gone that far.)
(In the two competitive elections yesterday, Hungary was able to defeat Azerbaijan, but Kenya fell short of unseating any of the five incumbent African nations.)