Like many people, we’ve been watching the images coming out of Iran today where voters are selecting a president. The polls had to be ordered to stay open to accommodate the crush of voters. It’s the kind of factoid that can easily lead one to sigh and think, “If only we took elections that seriously.”
Then another factoid was uncovered on aljazeerah.net. The highest turnout in Iran’s elections was 80-percent in 1997. Minnesota’s turnout last November was 78.5%. and 78.4% in 2004.
Like Minnesota, two candidates are claiming victory.
This afternoon, the Washington Post had an online chat wtih Mohamad Bazzi, an adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, who had this observation on whether a president, who serves under the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, can make a difference:
I don’t believe that President Obama’s speech in Cairo played a significant role in this election, or in the turnout. Many voters in Iran are going to be motivated to vote against Ahmadinejad just as much as they might want to vote for Mousavi. During Ahmadinejad’s term, economic conditions worsened considerably, and social freedoms became more limited. Many Iranians who did not vote in the 2005 presidential election now realize that it does make a difference who is president.
There’ll be substantial coverage this evening on The World ( 7 p.m. on MPR), which is providing additional images via Flickr, and provides good background on democracy, Iranian style, on its Web site.