Saturday, May 14, 2005


The initial phase of the formal registrations is now over. In sum, 1010 potential candidates are in-- 921 men and 89 women. In ten days or so, after the Guardian Council has had its say by vetting the candidates, those left in the field can start campaigning in earnest. I guess if my math is right, there will be 20 days of sharp exchanges and some marvelous promises of stars and the moon.

Luckily, one of our daily newspapers (Farhang-e-Ashti, Culture of Reconciliation) had some stats on the last 8 (presidential) contests. I thought you might find the following useful:

First President: Mr. Banisadr 1979; 174 candidates registered; got 10,753,752 votes out of 14,152,907. Total eligible voters 20,857,391. Participation rate:

Mr. Rajaie 1981; 71 registered; 12,770,050 out of 14,573,803.TEV: 22,439930. 64.95%

Mr. Khamenei 1981; 46 registered; 15,905.987 out of 16,847,715. TEV: 22,439,930. 75.08%

Mr. Khamenei 1985;50 registered; 12,205012 out of 14,238,587. TEV: 25,933,802.

Mr. Rafsanjani 1989; 79 registered; 15,550,528 out of 16,452,677. TEV: 30,139,598

Mr. Rafsanjani 1993; 128 registered; 10,566,499 out of 16,796,787. TEV: 33,156,055

Mr. Khatami 1997; 238 registered; 20,138,784 out of 29,145,745. TEV: 36,466,487

Mr. Khatami 2001; 814 registered; 21,659,053 out of 28,082,930. TEV: 42,170,230

A bit of melancholy in the air today. As I was sitting in my park bench thinking about these stats and looking at my fellow Iranians, I started telling myself that ours must be one of the strangest societies anywhere on the face of our planet.

The first president was booted out after some disagreements and forged an alliance with the infamous MEK and had his daughter marry MEK leader Mr. Rajavi and they absconded to France together. He had a falling out. The daughter divorced and he now lives there in a cold house all alone.

The second president was assassinated along with countless others, probably by Mr. Rajavi's henchmen. Mr. Rajavi himself at some point moved to Iraq and had him an ideological revolution in his Organization. That meant one of his fellow "Central Committee" members, or whatever it is they call themselves, divorced his wife so Mr. Rajavi could marry her.

Since then, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi has become a permanent fixture in any presidential election. Not that she is running or anything. She is just a self declared "interim President" of something or other.

For the longest of times, Mr. Banisadr too signed off every one of his declarations, "Your Elected President." I haven't read any of his stuff for years. I wonder if he still does that. And then there is also that perpetual King somewhere in the background hoping for the throne back and of course the yellow Savior who planned to arrive here last year but had a change of heart as he deemed us only worthy of his TV images.

Our next president got a promotion and is now our Supreme Leader. He too was a victim of an assassination attempt on his life. He survived, but lost the use of one of his arms.

Mr. Rafsanjani, the moneybag himself, has already served two terms. He is a serious contender now, although he is not very well liked anymore. Apparently he is deemed too rich, too corrupt, and powerful. Even though by all accounts we too are all in love with money, and always aspiring for as much power via that shortcut money provides. Hence our worship of Mammon. We are probably mostly just as corrupt ourselves! Why does he want to be a president anyway?

And the rumor has it that Mr. Khatami had no clue he was going to be such a smash hit and one hell of disappointed at the same time. All he wanted to do was to have a few million votes so that with the subsequent name recognition and his charming smile, he could move on and start an academic journal or a classy magazine of some kind. That's what it is he is really passionate about. But voila! He too got more than he bargained for and forgot himself.

The number of eligible voters has probably skyrocketed from the last time around. Here in this heartland of evil, we have, I suspect, the youngest voters you'd find anywhere on this ravaged planet of ours.

At the tender age of 15, you might have to always negotiate your lunch money with your mother, but hey, you can just walk into any station and vote as you please. Sort of funny when you think about it!

If they ever managed to pool resources together effectively by persuading some of their older voting friends to help out, they could then become a voting bloc to be terrified of.

What if they voted in an absolute bloodthirsty imbecile to punish their own parents for not giving them the car key for the Friday night cruise? Or what is there to prevent them from voting in someone ruthless and he cuts all the benefits to the retirees and their dependents, thus punishing the grandmothers for not giving them all the birthday gifts they'd wanted?

And that's the real reason, you see, we have those just, pious grandfathers in the Guardian Council. Only to save us from our own folly. By their vigilance, they are probably looking after our best interests--particularly the grandma's.

Like I said, a terribly, terribly strange Republic!

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