On Stealing Elections


A few days ago, a cartoon appeared in a local Kenyan newspaper featuring Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki advising Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the latter should not accept a power-sharing government at any costs. After all, the coalition government that has been in place in Kenya since the last presidential election erupted into violence hasn’t been going that well. An amusing cartoon, I get the point, but I don’t really find it that funny.

I think it’s because I was in Kenya when all the madness went down, and the memories are gruesome. Much like in Iran at the moment, Kenya went berserk and was brutally torn apart when opposition supporters declared the 2007 election stolen. At the end of all the protests, riots and murders, over 1,500 had been killed and 300,000 displaced. Why did the violence eventually come to an end? Because of a power-sharing deal.

I can’t even imagine what Kenya would be like, when a significant part of the population felt disenfranchised and taken advantage of, if the dueling candidates had not put aside their differences and agreed to technically share power. Sure, it happened in the U.S. in 2000, but there weren’t exactly riots in the street against an oppressive regime.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that there is no chance of the regime bowing to pressure from the opposition for a new election or any other kind of compromise. So this can go either of two ways: the protesters will eventually get tired and reluctantly accept that their mission has failed, or they will continue on in their dangerous struggle.

I would argue that the second option is ideal, but wouldn’t fault them if they chose the first. As we’ve seen before, the second choice gets very bloody very quickly.

Photo of an Iranian woman holding a picture of slain protester Neda Soltan in LA via Getty

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