A Guide to the Iranian Presidential Election (Funded by the U.S.A.)


Outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Wikimedia Commons)

Iranians go to the polls on June 14th to elect a successor to outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After the violent crackdown on protests of the disputed 2009 presidential election, there is far less excitement among Iranian voters this time around.

Nevertheless, this is still an important event, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has an excellent rundown of how the election process works and the powers of the Iranian president. For example, after several reformist candidates were disqualified, I wondered whether the many conservative candidates would split the conservative vote. Could that open the door for a unified reformist bloc to elect their preferred candidate? After reading the RFE/RL guide, I know that’s not going to happen:

To win, a candidate must win more than 50 percent of the vote to claim victory. If no candidate wins an outright majority, a runoff will be held a week later between the two candidates with the most votes in the first round.

Runoffs prevent vote-splitting scenarios, since the field narrows down to two for the decisive round.

It should be noted that RFE/RL is funded by the U.S. Government, with the mission of promoting democratic values and reporting news in countries where a free press is banned or not fully established. RFE/RL reaches Iran through Radio Farda, whose website receives 10 million page views per month.

Since RFE/RL is funded by the U.S. Government, it’s surprising to see that their first question in a quiz on Iranian leaders is about Mohammad Mossadeq. Here is why Mossadeq was deposed in 1953, according to this government-funded quiz:

Nationalizing the country’s oil industry. Mossadeq was overthrown in a putsch orchestrated by British and U.S. intelligence services. He was subsequently tried for treason and sentenced to death, but this was commuted to three years in solitary confinement. Mossadeq later lived out the rest of his days under house arrest. He died in 1967.

It’s good to see RFE/RL doing good work, especially because the organization is so poorly managed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. A recent Inspector General report found that the board suffered from chronically absent members and toxic personalities, and recommended that a CEO position be established to improve operational leadership. The board also has so many vacancies that it lacks a quorum to conduct business. President Obama has made several nominations to fill those vacancies, but the Senate has yet to confirm them.

Disfunction within the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the U.S. Senate notwithstanding, all of this makes me feel good about our government. One agency is producing clear reports about Iranian elections, which acknowledge our own past faults in that country. Another agency is exposing the faults of the first agency, and making recommendations for improvements. Our government is far from perfect, but it sure beats the alternative.


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