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VPR Reporter Is Keeping Tabs on Iranian Election


Published June 12, 2009 at 5:10 p.m.

Vermont Public Radio editor and reporter Steve Zind is no doubt keeping track of today's elections in Iran more closely than are most of us in Vermont.

There are multiple candidates in the race, but the two attracting the most supporters are current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Moussavi. If no one wins 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held next week.

Zind has twice traveled to Iran in the past four years, and Vermont Public Radio has a page devoted to his radio reports. Well worth a listen as you wait for the officials results, which should come tomorrow afternoon. That is, if there isn't a runoff election. That could add another week of suspense.

"I'm feeling, in a way, not unlike the lead-up to our own election [last fall]. The prospects for major change are great, and you can't really be sure how it's going to turn out," Zind told Seven Days. "I'm mildly obsessed with it, as much as I can be from this distance."

Zind expects to be glued to his computer tomorrow as the time approaches when results will be issued. He's been talking, emailing and IM'ing with friends in Iran for the past several days.

"I really wish I'd been there for these elections," said Zind. "I justcan't imagine what it's like. It's not as though, when you're in Iran,you feel like you're in some horrible police state like North Korea;people are out in the streets and in the parks. However, there areconstraints. Yet those constraints have been loosened considerably inthis last week."

That means some social norms, such as women's "appropriate"attire, are not being enforced. Also, street parties have been takingplace, with electronic dance music played full blast.

The relaxation of these norms is helping to fuel the feeling of "change" coming to Iran.

"Iran is forever unpredictable," notes Zind, who was in that country in January. "A few months ago, everyone was expecting Ahmadinejad to roll right through. Now it's [anyone's guess] what will happen after this, because, if Moussavi wins, it's not as if he's some raging liberal by any stretch of the imagination."

And, Zind notes, the Iranian president does not wield as much power as does his counterpart in the United States. In Iran, the president's power is constrained by that of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

If Moussavi is elected, however, Pres. Obama may find it easier to make the case to engage Iran in diplomatic talks than if Ahmadinejad remains in power.

One could imagine a picture of Pres. Obama and Moussavi shaking hands, but not one of Obama shaking hands with Ahmadinejad. Remember the uproar when Obama accepted a book from Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez?

No matter who wins, Zind is sure that Iran will not settle down immediately after the election. He's been amazed at the public demonstrations there, and wishes he could go back to witness them firsthand.

"Both sides have sizable followings and somebody is going to be very unhappy and cry foul," said Zind. "There is likely some anxiety within the government about what the losing candidate's supporters will do."

You can follow Steve Zind on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/SZvt.