Monthly Archives: June 2009

Irregularities in the Iranian Elections

Over the last few days, Iran has experienced more upheaval than anytime since the revolution in 1979.  At the same time, there has been more and more signs that the election was fraudulent on many levels and that decades of pent up frustration are now bursting forth.

There has been proof that turnouts exceeded 100% in over 30 towns (here) and that overall turn out would have to have been at 95% for the result to hold true.

The main opposition candidates lost their respective home towns and regions (here) according to Danielle Plekta, who is a neo-conservative hawk, but knowledgeable of the region.

The BBC has a timeline of the unrest (here) and a useful guide to the Iranian governmental system (here).

The New Statesman has a handy 10 tell-tale signs that should convince any doubters that something is seriously amiss (here).

All and all it seems that bloodshed is imminent.  It has been a rough year for elections that didn’t turn out the way they were expected to by the powers at be, i.e. Kenya, Armenia, Zimbabwe, Moldova, and now Iran to name the best known.  What is less clear that the US, EU, UN or just about anyone else has the power to do much about this, especially given the ongoing financial crisis.

Needless to say, this is troubling, even if hardly surprising.  Corrupt regimes rarely if ever give up power without a fight.  Furthermore, the methods employed are remarkably similar – intimidation, violence, censorship, media blackouts, etc.

Iran has always depended upon being perceived as a regime that is back by popular support, but the more they crackdown on dissent then this will be increasingly difficult to maintain.  What makes all of this so hard to believe is the Moussavi was not a candidate that was threatening to overthrow the theocracy and could very well have lost in the second round.  Then again, corrupt regimes are always afraid of being exposed.  Just look at Nixon, given his landslide victory in 1972, does it seem that Watergate was a justifiable risk?  Putin’s popularity is hard to doubt, but the heavy handed tactics against his opponents seems hardly like a long-term solution.

Only time will tell.

How Venezuela Came to Claim the Region’s Highest Murder Rate

Shannon O’Niel, a Latin American specialist with the Council on Foreign Affairs, has a new article (here) in Foreign Policy that discusses how Venezuela under Chavez has become the murder capital of the Western Hemisphere.   Venezuela has seen its share of violence over the last few decades, but think that its murder rate it higher than Mexico’s in the midst of its current war against the drug cartels; Colombia in the shifting sands of its fifth decade of civil war; and Guatemala’s feeble attempts to reel in its gangs and common delinquency to the point where it is more and more being considered a failed state – is sad commentary on the current state of affairs.

The dramatic drop in oil prices over the last year has had severe effects on the Venezuelan economy.  The Economist comments (here) on the fact that Chavez is running low on money to fund his Bolivarian Revolution with its deficit running as high as 9% in 2009; Forbes weights in (here) on the tightening of restrictions around remittances and spending US dollars abroad on credit cards.  All of which should come as little surprise, since Venezuela’s economy depends so heavily on oil prices.  Furthermore, the country has had the highest inflation in the Western Hemisphere for the last year, which has only increased tensions and suffering for the poor in Venezuela.

Chavez has continued to tighten his grip on the military and every major institution in the country, which has only intensified the resistance of his critics.  If the economy doesn’t improve before the next set of elections in 2013 it might not matter how much he alters the constitution – he very well may be voted out of office.  Only time will tell.