Ain't Democracy grand?
Today's Iranian elections are just about the most interesting thing happening in the world right now, with incumbent President Ahmadinezhad (I'm going with Juan Cole's spelling on that one) facing an enthusiastic surge from supporters of his opponent Mir Hussain Musavi. Apparently, Musavi's campaign has been characterised by excitement among young people seeking change and feeling disgraced by their current leader. They've been taking to the streets in rallies of many thousands, and driving the campaign through innovative use of the Internet and neighborhood organising.
Musavi is a moderate in Iranian turns - not a flaming pro-American, but someone who has signalled an interest in taking up President Obama's offer of renewed negotiations between the two countries.
It is very difficult to determine what the likely outcome of this race will be - polls suggest it may be close, but they have been very sporadic and unpredictable.
The big question is what happens AFTER the result is announced. If it goes to Ahmadinezhad, will we be able to validate the integrity fo the voting process? Already there are scattered reports of extensive vote tampering.
If it goes to Musavi, will Ahmadinezhad's people allow the peaceful transfer of power?
IF all goes smoothly (a big if) this election could be long-term great news for Iran, no matter who wins. The Middle East is unused to the kind of intensely faught elections, but a demonstration that the nation can thrive while still allowing open political dissent, even if the reformers do not get their way, could be a great step forward.
Or not - Ahmadinezhad has hinted that if he wins narrowly he may make moves to declare himself "President for Life". Ah well. Democracy: easy come, easy go?
Holding my breath on this one...