Friday, May 15, 2009

Facebook Democracy in Iran

Politics On-line

Voters in Iran are turning to Facebook to find information on independent candidates who could overthrow current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

With Iran's formal election campaign set to begin May 22, young, tech-savvy Iranians are bypassing the current regime and searching for independent candidates. Out of Iran's total population of 70 million, 47 million have mobile telephones and 21 million have access to the internet. And with 60 percent of the population under 30, the Internet's role in Iran's democratic state is unsurprising. Due in part by the limitation set on their use of public channels of communication, these independents have gone online to promote and strengthen a need for change that is currently driving the Iranian youth away from incumbent president Ahmadinejad.

According to the Financial Times, of the 475 people registered as presidential candidates for the June 12 election, only three are serious contenders: Mir- Hossein Moussavi, the leftwing prime minister from 1981 to 1989; Mehdi Karroubi, a former reformist parliamentary speaker; and Mohsen Rezaei, the former commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards."

Incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has an online presence on multiple social networks including Facebook and Twitter. According to Global Voices, an grassroots online movement called Dar Emtedad Mehr (meaning, "Following Kindness") showing support for Ahmadinejad is even taking place. On Facebook, a page called Friends of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has attracted 588 members and a page called "I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who dislike Mahmoud Ahmadinejad" has attracted more than 35,000 members, the highest number in all pages related to the president.

Related Articles:
(Telegraph) Facebook becomes early battleground in Iran elections
(Financial Times) Facebook sets tone in Iran's electoral contest
Facebook is the best hope for democracy in Iran
(Global Voices) Iran: Ahmadinejad's supporters launch online grassroots campaign

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