Election Day in Iran

Friday is presidential Election Day in Iran. And, although the election will hardly be “free” in the Western sense of the term, it is creating a great deal of interest as a reformist candidate tries to unseat hardliner and Holocaust denier President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It is not really a free election because, as author Con Coughlin noted in The Wall Street Journal this week, each of the potential candidates had to be vetted by the Islamic clerics who have controlled the country since the Ayatollah Komeini’s 1979 revolution.

Even so, leading challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi offers a very different perspective from Ahmadinejad. He and his supporters have criticized the president for denying the Holocaust, for antagonizing Europe and the United States and, most importantly for many Iranians, for leading the country toward economic ruin.

Ahmadinejad has responded by saying Mousavi is lying about the economy, by denying that inflation was as high as his own financial officials said it was, and by vowing to cut off the hands of those who plundered the nation’s wealth.

He also portrays himself as a friend to the common man, and a courageous politician unafraid to stand up to global bullies.

Tens of thousands of Mousavi supporters created a human chain stretching for miles along a major thoroughfare earlier this week, halting traffic for hours and demonstrating that the challenger has substantial backing.

Ahmadinejad’s supporters responded with their own demonstrations and vows to crush their opponents.

Because there are four candidates running, it’s likely there will be a run-off election in a few weeks between the top two finishers.

Even if Mousavi is elected, it’s unlikely that Iran will suddenly stop its drive for nuclear weapons, which the ruling clerics have been pushing for years. Nor will it immediately halt support for terrorists in Israel, Iraq and other parts of the Mideast.

But a victory for Mousavi would show that Iranians have the power to get rid of someone as bombastic and confrontational as Ahmadinejad, even if the clerics still maintain ultimate control.

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