Commentary: Living with a rigged election

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Scripps Howard News Service
Even if last weekend’s Iranian presidential election was honest ó and numerous red flags suggest it wasn’t ó the clerical regime has so little credibility that few would believe it.
The United States and Western European nations believe the election was rigged. So do millions of Iranians who have taken to the streets to protect the results. And one of the doubters may even be Iran’s supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.After first endorsing the outcome as a divine blessing, Khamenei ordered the 12-member Council of Guardians, technically the country’s highest authority, to investigate the outcome. The investigation might be a way to buy time in hopes that the protest demonstrations blow over. Or perhaps it might be a whitewash. Or perhaps Khamenei wants to satisfy his own curiosity about the extent to which it was fixed. Perhaps he hadn’t authorized a landslide, which is what incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by.
Polls leading up to the election showed a near 50-50 outcome with challenger Mir Houssein Mousavi, a former prime minister, perhaps having a slight advantage. Everything pointed to a runoff. But barely had the polls closed when the government announced that Ahmadinejad has been re-elected by a 2-to-1 margin.
Mousavi has demanded a new election, which the council has the power to grant. But as embarrassing as this election was to Iran, being forced to hold a second one would be doubly embarrassing and show the extent that the government went to rig the first.
In a curious way, having Ahmadinejad back in office makes diplomacy easier. He is regarded as such a loose cannon and such an anti-Semite that it will be easier to hold together the coalition aimed at stopping Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
While having the bellicose Ahmadinejad in office for another four years will grate on the world’s nerves, it’s actually worse for the Iranian people. Ahamdinejad’s mismanagement has made Iran an economic wreck with 25 percent-plus inflation and an official unemployment rate of 12.5 percent that is likely twice that.