Iran’s state television broadcast a live program on Tuesday in which passers-by were placed in a chair and asked what they would do if they were president. One man said he would “work for the people.” A second jumped up when he heard the question. “I don’t want this chair!” he said. Suddenly, a young woman grabbed the microphone. “This program is nonsense,” she said. “Those who really sit on this chair are only there to fill their own pockets.” The program rapidly broke for a commercial, but it was a rare and revealing unscripted moment in the strictly controlled run-up to the presidential election on June 14.
Iran’s 2009 presidential election was an exuberant and exciting spectacle that aroused a powerful surge of optimism in the populace but that ended with the trauma of a violent crackdown. This year’s vote, taking place under starkly different circumstances, promises to be far more subdued.
For most, the enthusiasm of 2009 has been replaced, for now at least, with an indifference bred of fear and fed by a lack of charismatic candidates. There is little talk of a boycott, but no enthusiasm or expectations that the election will make any difference in people’s lives.
Today, most of the leading figures of the 2009 opposition — politicians, dissidents and journalists — have been silenced or fled the country. Many of them are still in jail, while the two presidential challengers and leaders of the so-called green movement, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, remain under house arrest.
Many still feel cheated, if not by the outcome of the vote, which many here viewed as fraudulent, then by the way their complaints were swept aside by security forces on the streets of Tehran.