Monday, June 15, 2009

What's Worse?

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
- Plato

Hmmm. I dunno anymore mister smart guy Plato. Tough one for y'all. Which election is worse?: 80% voter turnout, election fever, but the results were predetermined. 43% turnout, no buzz at all, with results already known. Or 61% turnout, yes we can excitement, results made to appear miraculous. I know, not enough information to go on, but it's enough to do my head in these past few days. Feeling physically ill. Behind door # 1, Iranians made to feel momentarily empowered, however illusory it was, only to have the rug pulled out from under them. The 2nd, Europeans sitting on their hands hoping not to sink the boat by getting off their asses. Door #3 reveals Americans being fed a different flavour of hope. Three different elections, three different ways of making me sick as democracy continues to be pedaled to the masses as the opiate of control.

The election excitement had been overwhelming. The campaigns, creative, the debates hard fought and controversial. An environment where ideas and counterarguments were being shared and disputed among the people, maybe even informing much of the electorate, enabling them to make the decision about who they wanted to lead them for the next four years. An unpredictable battle between Ahmadinejad, Mousavi, Rezaee and Karroubi? Of course it was all a sham from the start, the true power runs through the Ayatollahs in Iran, but most of the electorate were aware that their four choices were handpicked by the theocracy. Any change the president of Iran could bring about would have to be done within the framework of the revolution. Yet, there they were, campaigning in the streets and on the web, dancing and painting themselves green, seemingly willing a change in the powerless executive of their nation. What a difference an election makes from expectations! A huge turnout and a surprise, Ahmedinjijad is still president.

At least it looks like there's some protest going on, a little backlash. Here in Europe just over a week ago you might have missed the fact there was an election if you'd a blinked. Granted I don't have a TV, but the only evidence of an election I had here in Poland were the campaign signs littering the sides of a few roads. Momentary eye candy for the passing motorist now mostly blowing through the streets or packing the landfills. While over 40% voted Europe wide, barely 20% went to the polls here, and even less across the border in Slovakia where 19.6% of those eligible bothered to vote, actually UP from the 17% who voted 5 years ago! Sadly, low voter turnout was at least partially responsible for the results, as right-wing fringe parties made strong showings. Voter apathy combined with economic turmoil resulted in Dutch voters making Geert Wilders' anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) the country's second-largest political force at the EU level. They garnered around 17% of the votes, just slightly behind Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's center-right Christian Democrats who secured around 20%. Yes, THAT Geert Wilders, the one facing prosecution and the possibility of jail for hate speech. Even the UK saw the election of their first right-wing extremists to the European Parliament as the British National Party won four seats; Gordon Brown's Labour Party only managed to win 11! Could be worse I guess, at least the Swedes managed to elect a representative from the Pirate Party, as they took over 7% of the votes cast there.

How does this all compare to the home of democracy? Hope and change has done exactly what was planned, nothing. But you couldn't have set it up any better to look like a choice, were talking about a country with experience at rigging elections. What set up? A black guy running for the banksters/Government Motors and an old white guy for the military industrial complex/Israel. On the surface, it seems you couldn't paint a more stark choice, but besides a couple of nice sounding speeches, the change promised by Obama hasn't materialized. Yes, I know, time, give it time. However, looking outside of Iraq, Af/Pak and Guantanamo, I'd say that if anything, the economic policy choices have guaranteed a continuation and probably an acceleration of the wealth shift trend to the rich in America (h/t PP). The inevitable failure of Obama's save the banks policy will lead to a loss in faith of democracy itself. I can't say it better than Joseph Stiglitz in this month's Vanity Fair: In the developing world, people look at Washington and see a system of government that allowed Wall Street to write self-serving rules which put at risk the entire global economy—and then, when the day of reckoning came, turned to Wall Street to manage the recovery. They see continued re-distributions of wealth to the top of the pyramid, transparently at the expense of ordinary citizens. They see, in short, a fundamental problem of political accountability in the American system of democracy.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Iran. What really pisses me off is that this fix, if it is in fact one, keeping Ahmadinejad in power, will be used as ammunition by the right-wingnuts against Obama's change in tone towards Iran. You remember, the one where he thinks it's better to actually talk to people about disagreements. Or maybe having Mousavi lose is in fact a good thing for the White House making it easier to get sanctions in place. It could represent a pivotal moment that entrenches the power of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or it could be the beginning of his end. Iran may be on the cusp of the next revolution or maybe the stories we're getting are being blown completely out of proportion and things are more on the level of the LA riots. Mousavi may have been the candidate to bring about the green revolution, or perhaps he wasn't. There probably was some vote tampering, the evidence is there, from whether you believe Mousavi's story about being informed of victory, to how Ahmadinejad really won pretty much equally across all provinces, beating the Azeri candidate Mousavi in Azeristan's capital while beating the Lur candidate Karoubi overwhelmingly in Luristan. About the only thing certain about the election chaos out of Iran is that it may have won me over to Twitter as I've become a constant checker of the #iranelection feed, while the traditional media seems to be failing, as in #CNNfail.


Phuck Politics said...

I enjoy watching Republicans blame Obama for what's going on in Iran. Have you heard about this?

Shane said...

If I said I was surprised PP, I'd be a as guilty as the right wingnuts of making shit up.

Troy said...

The matter in Iran is still very, very unclear. Lets remember that all of this 'green fever' we are seeing is coming from the cities, from people with internet connections, from the few in Iran who speak English, where's the twitter in Farsi?

The country is HUGE...not Canada or Russia Huge, but lets talk several EU nations. The cities represent but a portion.

The vast majority of the electorate is conservative, very conservative. And they may very well like Mr. Ahmadinejad's stance (he would dislike the term Mr), like it or not. Would the Azeris vote for their man if they thought he was weak and would help the Americans, or worse yet the Armenians?

Added to that, yes the Revolutionary council IS all powerful, but within that there IS a democracy in the country. Call it a Parliamentary Democracy where the King does contradict sometimes.

The tone in the country does change depending on who's in power.

The question is one that few are asking, what if the election wasn't rigged? Then it would suddenly they would be backwards authoritarians ala Hamas in Palestine or protest against the government in Georgia.