Page 12 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

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12
SEPTEMBER 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
ates (as defned by We Choose) took 67
percent.
Te We Choose results show that a
more reform-minded candidate than
Hassan Rouhani may have captured a
victory in the real race, had any been
allowed on the ballot. Even so, Western-
ers and secularists in Iran are encour-
aged. As Trita Parsi of the National
Iranian American Council puts it,
“Tough hardliners remain in control of
key aspects of Iran’s political system, the
centrists and reformists have proven that
even when the cards are stacked against
them, they can still prevail due to their
support among the population.”
Despite the much lower turnout for
the Iranian virtual election than in Rus-
sia, where 80,000 participated, Kasparov
has high hopes for his project: “We have
demonstrated the ability to allow for free,
fair and secure elections for any citizen
worldwide. Tis is the frst step towards
implementation of the system in any
country worldwide where people want
freedom.”
—Jesse Smith, Editorial Intern
Face(book)-ing
the Music
I
n the July 2 issue of the
Washington
Examiner
,
Michal Conger writes
that
State employees spent $630,000 over a
two-year period to attract more “likes”
for the department’s Facebook presence.
Citing a
May report by State’s Ofce of
the Inspector General,
Conger notes that
between 2011 and March 2013, the cam-
paign by the International Information
Programs Bureau used advertising and
page improvements to boost the number
of “likes” for IIP’s English-language Face-
book page from 100,000 to two million.
Sounds good, right? Unfortunately,
the OIG concluded, “Many in the bureau
criticize the advertising campaigns as
What Might Have
Been in Tehran
M
any in the United States wel-
comed the news that Iranian
voters chose Hassan Rouhani to suc-
ceed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the
country’s next president in the June 14
election. Tough analysts difer on just
how moderate or centrist Rouhani is, he
clearly stood out from the fve conser-
vatives whose candidacies were also
approved by the country’s Guardian
Council. And for that reason, Rouhani’s
massive victory on the frst ballot was
widely seen as a possible turning point
in U.S.-Iranian relations.
More than 600 other candidates
initially vied for the presidency, but
were denied a spot on the fnal ballot.
Te Unity for Democracy in Iran and
other dissident groups point out that the
results of Iran’s elections would likely
have been drastically diferent if voters
had had a wider choice of candidates,
not simply those hand-picked by the
regime.
With that in mind, Garry Kasparov,
the Russian chess grandmaster and
human rights activist, initiated a
“We
Choose–I
ran” virtual election that was
held simultaneously with the actual
process. A sequel to a similar project
during Russia’s 2012 presidential race,
We Choose used advanced cybersecurity
technologies to enable Iranians to cast
votes for a wide array of possible candi-
dates on the project’s website.
In addition to the six men on the real
ballot, We Choose included 14 others
deemed to have a signifcant amount
of public support, despite having been
banned from the ballot. (Two of these
other 14 were eventually permitted on
the actual ballot, but withdrew to divert
votes to like-minded candidates.)
A total of 5,000 Iranians submitted
votes to We Choose. Te winners, in a
virtual tie, were Mir-Hossein Mousavi,
a reformist, with 28 percent and Reza
Pahlavi, the son of Iran’s last shah, with
27.9 percent. While Hassan Rouhani eas-
ily won the actual election, he received
just 10.7 percent of the virtual votes.
However, his camp of reformists/moder-
TALKING POINTS
SITE OF THE MONTH:
Topix
W
ant to keep up with developments in your hometown while posted over-
seas? (Or vice versa?) If so, this may be the site for you.
Billing itself as “Your Town, Your News, Your Take,”
Topix
features local news
and discussion forums for every city in the United States, thousands of cities
throughout the world and 300,000 other topics. To do this, the site aggregates
reporting and opinion pieces from the Gannett, McClatchy and Tribune compa-
nies, as well as 74,000 other sources around the world.
With more than 12 million registered users,
Topix
is a top-10 U.S. newspaper
site and the second-largest U.S. mobile news site, reaching more than fve mil-
lion people a month.
In March 2012,
Topix
launched
Politix
,
an interactive political news and dis-
cussion site where users can debate current events and test their knowledge
with quizzes.
—Steven Alan Honley, Editor