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The stay-home majority
Most people did not vote because they do not believe in the system


June 25, 2005

We never give our people enough credit. We try to preach to them with insane broadcasts from Los Angeles. We offend their intelligence with lunatics and countdown clocks on satelitte television. We accuse them of being the regime's sympatheizers when they accept the Nobel Peace Prize with dignity. We judge them for participating. We judge them for not participating. We scream about the murderous mullahs while we quietly invest millions of dollars in Iranian real estate, open factories in Karaj, and use the profits to buy silk rugs for our primary homes in California.

And then, when our people see the elections for what they are (false, corrupt, and a mockery of fairness) and stay home in an educated act of defiance, we call them apathetic and blame them for the victory of the new hardline president. "What are they thinking?" we cry, "Now I won't be able to wear lip gloss or a tight manteau when I am in Tehran two weeks out of the year!"

What is most shocking and poignant about the election results is not the triumpth of the "underdog", but the fact that far fewer people voted in the run off than in the first round of elections last week. Iranian state television has been bursting its seams in excitement over voter participation.

All week, gorgeous and slick propaganda had been attempting to seduce voters back to the polls for the second round. Photo montages of young women in bright colors dropping ballots in the box, pulsating techno music in the backdrop as live reporters question the nation's most famous actors, singers, and athletes about their participation in history, even Ali Daie in skintight Versace strutting into Rafsanjani public offices... apparently all of this did nothing to win over voters in a mere seven days.

Why did the turnout drop between the first and second round? Doesn't it seem logical that more people would turn out to vote, given the intensity and apparant significance of the final round?

The past week in Tehran has been bustling with political activity. Losing candidates screaming fraud, newspapers being shut down, music videos featuring and promoting Rafsanjani (no joke) broadcast on the Persian Music Channel from Dubai, fainting on live television to show passion for the "democratic" process, people stepping out of their cars to start fistfights about candidates... And, yet, a significant drop in voter participation from last week to this week.

In most nations, lower voter participation indicates apathy or indifference. In Iran, apathy has nothing to do with most people staying home. The most politically active and educated Iranians stayed home yesterday in a deliberate refusal to allow the Islamic Republic to use their vote as proof of its own legitimacy.

They didn't stay home because they didn't care. They didn't stay home because they were busy or tired or bored. They didn't stay home because they aren't political. And they CERTAINLY didn't stay home because ridiculous satelitte programers told them to. They stayed home because they do not believe in the system.

Member of the Guardian Council Ayatollah Janati, said "every vote is a bullet in the heart of our enemies." In the end, even the most over-glorified statistics of the Islamic Republic indicate less than half of the nation voted. And that, my friends, is the biggest victory of all.

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