Sunday, June 14, 2009
Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory- and how the west got it hopelessly wrong.
Oh dear. How very embarrassing. For the last few days we have heard ad nauseum from western reporters and foreign policy ‘experts’ telling us that the Iranian elections were ‘too close to call’ and that there was a real chance of the man the west wanted to win -Mousavi- triumphing.
And what was the result of the election that was ‘too close to call’?
A landslide victory for President Ahmadinejad.
How did the western reporters get it so wrong? Well, wishful thinking undoubtedly played a part.
But I think the main reason is that they spent too much time chatting to English-speaking well-heeled middle-class types in the posh suburbs of Tehran and not enough time to ordinary working-class Iranians for whom Ahmadinejad is a hero.
The coverage of the Iranian election reminded me of the way the western media portrayed the Presidential election in Belarus in 2006. The reporting made it seem as if there were huge sections of the population in favour of the-‘pro western’ candidate, who was going to privatise the economy, line up obediently to join NATO and the EU and embark on the economic ‘reforms’ so beloved by western capital.
The result of the election: a landslide victory for President Lukashenko.
The western media had neglected the opinions of old age pensioners, peasants, factory workers and the working-class in general. In other words they'd forgotten about the majority of the population- the people who have benefited most from Lukashenko's rule. And of course when the result was announced, there were the inevitable cries of 'How can it be so!', and 'It's a fix!', as there have been after the Iranian poll.
Let’s hope that after getting the Iranian election so embarrassingly wrong, the western media learns its lesson. As Abbas Barzegar writes in this excellent piece:
In the future, observers would do us a favour by taking a deeper look into Iranian society, giving us a more accurate picture of the very organic religious structures of the country, and dispensing with the narrative of liberal inevitability. It is the religious aspects of enigmatic Persia that helped put an 80-year-old exiled ascetic at the head of state 30 years ago, then the charismatic cleric Khatami in office 12 years ago, the honest son of a blacksmith – Ahmedinejad –four years ago, and the same yesterday.
A final point regarding the western coverage of the Iranian elections. It seemed compulsory for western commentators to use the adjective ‘hardline’ whenever they mentioned the Iranian President.
And to use the word ‘reformer’ when mentioning his main challenger.
Here's what those terms actually mean in this context.