All the way to school Saturday — the day after the electiuon — I was trying to come up with ugly world leaders. Presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, it really didn't matter. Just somebody a bit too grotesque to be featured as front page news on state visits. I think: “Yasser Arafat looked like a lizard … Jean Chretien of Canada, there's a guy with a really ugly lower lip.
Or how about Margaret Thatcher?” But I know even a remote comparison would be insane. Sure, she was no super model, but they don't call her the Iron Lady for nothing. There is a strong sense of strength that sieves through, even from looking at her photos. No, as hard as I push my brain, I really can't come up with any leader as un-photogenic as my president-elect.
Today the whole school was in a frenzy. Students were evidently scared and shaken. Walking to lunch with my friends, all we did was remind each other that in only a month or two we'd have to walk on two separate sides of the street. Everyone is talking about obtaining American visas and enrolling in schools abroad. The girls are asking each other where they can find loose, long manteaus that will have to replace the colorful tight ones they have now.
I don't know how this could have happened. Sure, there are those who claim nothing has changed and nothing will because someone else is in charge. But living here in Tehran on a daily basis, I know that is far from the truth. I look at the girls with their colorful shawls and makeup. Will they be thrown in the closet come August 24th when Ahmadinejad begins his term in office? Will I see the existing few worthy publications banned? And how will I bear watching the news to see such an uncomely looking man representing me in all international forums?
My friends, who all voted for Rafsanjani, didn't expect this outcome at all. I remember Rafsanjani being bashed four years ago when reformists held the presidency and enjoyed parliamentary majority. But this is politics, not a sibling rivalry. Everything is relative and alliances change based on current issues. These are politicians who work from within the system. This time the reformists needed Rafsanjani. But it was too late.
A lot of the people refused to vote, especially the younger generation who have little memory of the Rafsanjani era but grew up reading all the books and articles critical of his abuse of power and financial corruption. His riches don't really bother me. It's his denials.
Lebanon late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was much loved amongst his people; even though his multi-billionaire dollar empire was known to all. By contrast, Rafsanjani's sons have been taking care of family business and managing real estate all around the world; it's common knowledge. Yet he goes on claiming that he's virtually dirt poor.
There were some decent people in the list of presidential candidates. Sure, they were not saints, but that should not have been an excuse to sit back in a city of 12 million and let a few hundred thousand people elect the sinners. If the people who stayed home had voted, this Ahmadinejad guy would have never become mayor and the park down my street would not have turned into a martyrs' cemetery; and the farhangsara cultural center two blocks away would not have become an Islamic center overnight.
Half the population of Tehran went to sleep last night not knowing what hit them. The other half, like my school janitor who was victoriously offering sweets the morning after the election, dreams of the riches Ahmadinejad has promised. Who knows? Maybe the poor are giving the IRI another chance to deliver. But my guess is that it's too late.