Iran’s Summer of Discontent: Is this a Preview of the Philippines 2010 Elections?

Protesting the results of the 2009 Iran Presidential Elections

Protesting the results of the 2009 Iran Presidential Elections

I have been closely watching Iran’s summer of discontent and rage on digital cable TV since last weekend.

That the scenes are reminiscent of the cries of Liberte’ as the French laid siege to the Bastille in 1789, the prelude to the fall of the Iron Curtain, and more recently the seeming regularity of despots being overthrown all over the world .

Despots of the Past

There are striking parallels between the current protests going on in Iraq and the Philippines.
Decades ago, Iran had its Shah, and the Philippines had its Marcos. Both have been swept away by popular discontent.

Popular Discontent

Iran and the Philippines have undertaken “people power” revolutions to remove the US-backed dictatorships of Shah Pahlavi and Ferdinand Marcos. These dictatorships were ousted by a broad coalition of political forces. In Iran, two incompatible forces, theocracy and democracy fused, to oust the Shah. In the Philippines, the two incompatible urges, traditional transactional politics and participative democracy fused – from atheist commies to the religious right, to oust Marcos.

Hijacked “Revolutions”

Both “revolutions” were also hijacked by the traditionalists. Iran’s theocracy seized the initiative (can’t help but wonder if the CBCP is salivating at the powers of the Council of Guardians made up exclusively of clerics). Trapos and oligarchs also seized the initiative in the Philippines as the center and the center-left became complacent amidst the euphoria of EDSA.

Despots of the Present

Today, Iran has its Ahmadinejad, the Philippines has its Gloria Arroyo. Both are perceived to be despots and popular discontent is high.

Today, we are seeing the unraveling of theocracy and democracy – and Iranians are demanding that clerics who sit in the Council of Guardians also have to be directly elected. All of it was brought about due to the perceived electoral fraud. Analysts all over the world don’t know which way the wind will blow – whether the current exercise will become an EDSA or become a Tiananmen in Tehran.

Despots of the Future

The Philippines has yet to conduct elections. Public perception is high that GMA is out to change the charter so she can be eligible to another term as President. Whether this is reality or not, “trial balloons” are being sent and are being popped as well.

The Audacity of New Media

What merits greater attention is how new media technologies like Twitter and Facebook are becoming a primary source of information as government clamps down on MSM. Is this a face of things to come? Will repressive administrations cut the lines of communication in order to suppress the truth? This early, it will be wise to start scoping out a backup plan when big bad government becomes big brother.

A New Generation on the Rise

Another noteworthy item is the critical role that demographics plays in the change in the overall Iranian sentiment. As pointed out by Huffpost’s Johann Hari :

The Mullahs won’t go quietly. They may go down fighting. But the demographics ensure Ahmadinejad’s side will lose in the long-term. Another 70 percent of Iranians are under the age of thirty, and the vast majority are growing up in the cities, linked via Twitter and Facebook to a world beyond. They have developed huge subcultures of bloggers and rappers expressing their rage at the “morality police” who monitor their behaviour at every turn. While the hardcore Islamist constituency – the old and the rural – shrivels, the reformist constituency is swelling.There’s only so long you can suppress an angry, wired population much younger than you. IPods beat i-slamism in the end. But will they prevail before another Middle Eastern war born of irrational fear begins?

Like Iran, the Philippines is also showing a similar demographic shift. Although 61% of the population is between 15-64 years old, the mean age of the Philippine population is 22 years old. The demographic is not only young, but highly literate, and highly wired to the net.

Democracy and The Learning Curve

Moving forward, the dynamics that are taking place in Iran today will be worth watching. Freedom lovers will watch how freedom and democracy is protected and fought for in the streets of Teheran. Despots will be watching the crowds and try to come up with pre-emptive measures to contain the crowds.

There are lessons to be learned from Iran. The strategies, tactics, and dynamics between both sides of the Iranian question might provide a preview of things to come in the Philippines 2010 national elections.

Freedom is a Universal Longing

Let us join the world in solidarity and add our voices so that the voice of freedom and democracy will ring louder in Iran, the Philippines, and all over the planet.

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