The capital isn’t the country

A word on Iran. Not my patch, I know, but something struck me about the shock news organisations expressed when the results came in. An Ahmadinejad victory didn’t tally with the mass rallies in Tehran for his opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, or the anti-Ahmedinejad sentiment reporters were picking up in the capital.

Maybe that was the problem – the reporters were in Tehran. It’s very easy to work in a capital and have no idea what is going on elsewhere. It was only once I got to Eldoret, three days after Mwai Kibaki’s re-election was confirmed, that I realised how bad the post-election violence was outside Nairobi. During the Congolese election in 2006 colleagues in Kinshasa had a very different view to those, like me, in the east. Joseph Kabila was wildly popular where I was, hated by many in the capital. If you were to ask ordinary people on the streets of Khartoum what they thought of Darfur many of them would have very different views to those in El Fasher or Nyala.

Ahmadinejad may well have rigged the elections – as I said, it’s not patch and I don’t know enough about it. But news organisations may have got the result wrong because they didn’t report from the whole country.

Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey thinks so too:

What happened to all those charming, articulate young men and women in North Tehran, interviewed again and again on Western television? They were so enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad’s main opponent, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi. They were excited about the prospect of more freedoms. They thought Ahmadinejad was a failure and an embarrassment, and they really seemed to like us Americans. Indeed, they seemed almost to be like us Americans. Didn’t they speak for the real Iran?

Actually, no. It appears that the working classes and the rural poor—the people who do not much look or act or talk like us—voted overwhelmingly for the scruffy, scrappy president who looks and acts and talks more or less like them.”

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