CAIRO, Egypt – The massive street protests triggered by President Ahmadinejad’s improbable 63% victory over opposition challenger Mir Hussein Moussavi have prompted Middle Eastern despots to re-think vote rigging strategies for their own upcoming elections.
Abdul-Majid Nadwi, a former political advisor to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, says that real change has come to the Middle East. “It’s not really feasible anymore to rig an election and produce a 98% or 99% victory. People aren’t going to accept it. You have to be a bit more subtle about it,” said Mr. Nadwi, speaking from the offices of his Cairo-based political consultancy, FortyMoreYears©.
A senior adviser to Syrian president Bashar al-Asad echoed Mr. Nadwi’s sentiments. “As we’re seeing from Iran, even 63% is too high a winning percentage. The best margin of victory is probably around 55%, so that’s what we’re going to be aiming for when President al-Asad comes up for reelection in a few years.”
Analysts and observers are attributing the sea change in public attitudes throughout the Middle East to a growing disenchantment with ruthless dictatorships, but also to the patronizing attitude that they show towards their citizens.
“People have simply had enough,” says Hassan Khalil, deputy editor of a Qatari state-owned newspaper. “I mean, it’s just insulting. We can endure the oppression and the human rights abuses, but what we simply will not stand for anymore is having our intelligence insulted,” said Mr. Khalil.
“Ok, so it’s a sham election, I accept that. But why throw it in my face with a landslide victory, know what I’m saying? I mean, 55% is just as good as 99%, isn’t it?”
President Ahmadinejad’s office did not return a call for comment on this matter.