db461246cad78210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q2After the Iranian election result, apathy or anger?cb461246cad78210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____After the Iranian election result, apathy or anger?If one is to believe the official announcement by the Iranian interior ministry, the Iranian people have voted resoundingly against change by handing their incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an overwhelming victory at the polls.<p>If one is to believe the official announcement by the Iranian interior ministry, the Iranian people have voted resoundingly against change by handing their incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an overwhelming victory at the polls. The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has already congratulated Mr Ahmadinejad, seems relieved that the "green tsunami" - in reference to the growing popular momentum behind the candidacy of the moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi - has receded.</p>
<p>Gauging Iranian public opinion is certainly difficult, and yet there seems to be significant outrage at the outcome. Accusations of massive fraud and other electoral improprieties are marring the significance of the enthusiastic turnout. After weeks of voter mobilisation and growing excitement that saw millions of Iranians participate in political rallies and tune in to the tense televised debates between the four contenders, nearly 85 per cent of the electorate showed up at the polls, many queuing for several hours to cast their ballots. Such turnout meant that young urban voters, who stayed away from voting booths in 2005, overcame their apathy, to the probable benefit of Mr Mousavi. So it is fair to remain sceptical that Mr Ahmadinejad, whose performance as president has been dismal, truly gathered 63 per cent of the vote and Mr Mousavi only 34 per cent. The growing momentum in favour of the latter had certainly unsettled the hardliners in the regime. The day before the vote, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and protector of the Islamic Revolution's values and institutions, warned in a blunt statement that "any attempt at a velvet revolution will be nipped in the bud".</p>
<p>Mr Mousavi is not admitting defeat. Rather, he is openly questioning the integrity of the electoral process. He first declared himself "the absolute winner of the election by a very large margin", but as official numbers showed him behind, he adopted a defiant posture, calling the results "stunning", pledging to resist "governance of lie and dictatorship", and promising to reveal "secrets behind this dangerous charade".</p>
<p>We have yet to see evidence of the fraud alleged by the reformist camp, but coming from a member of the ruling elite of the Islamic Republic, such rhetoric is unprecedented, reflecting a sense of deep injustice. Despite the demonstrations taking place in a few major cities, this disappointment may not lead to any serious challenge to the regime, but instead bolster apathy and disenchantment.
The next few days will tell whether the Iranian public will acquiesce to what some are already branding a coup d'etat. Tension is already high, with scuffles between protesters and riot police, allegations of a clampdown on reformist organisations and rumours of arrests of Mousavi supporters. Mr Khamenei will not tolerate a public challenge to his authority, but Mr Ahmadinejad has succeeded in alienating many powerful figures of the regime who endorsed Mr Mousavi. The bickering will happen behind closed doors even more than on the streets of Tehran and will have a profound impact on the country and its neighbourhood. It may have already damaged Mr Khamenei's standing among Iranians, though not his control over them.</p>
<p>These events will complicate the announced US overture to Tehran. The international community appropriately refrained from voicing any preference during the campaign, but dealing with a controversial president who is also contested at home will make any rapprochement even more difficult. Iran may be in for difficult times, and with it, the Middle East.</p>