A Potemkin Election in Iran

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 2, 2012

Raise your hands if you are surprised by this story:

Iran’s state media declared a record turnout in the capital for parliamentary elections on Friday, proclaiming the first national vote since a disputed presidential election in 2009 to be another “epic” success for the country and a thumb in the eye of the West.

Scenes of crowded polling places and voters with ink-stained fingers dominated state television and online news sites as Tehran swung its official and semiofficial information outlets behind reporting a high turnout that had been loudly called for by the country’s supreme leader.

“Tehran set a new record in terms of participation in the Majlis election,” the state-run Mehr news agency quoted the city’s governor general, Morteza Tamaddon, as saying, in reference to the parliament.

Press TV, state-run English language television, reported more than 31 million ballots had been cast, a voter turnout of about 64 percent, after an early count on Friday.

Those results seemed at odds with the short lines and relatively empty voting booths reported by a number of Iranians in the capital and a few other major cities over the course of the day. “I went to two polling places at around 2 p.m., one a mosque and one a school, and there was hardly anyone there,” said one 41-year-old woman in Tehran, in comments that were echoed by a number of others. Many analysts and government critics have been asserting that the government — which has long held up voter turnout as a sign of its democratic legitimacy — was likely to declare high numbers whatever the reality.

This post may be alternatively titled as “The Iranian Regime and State Media Confirm Their Fondness for Newspeak.”

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