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Maybe it’s the relatively thin air up on those high plateaus that makes them foolish. First, ballot fraud apparently helped Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who would probably have won the second round in the presidential election in Iran anyway, to win in the first round and avoid a runoff. The incredible voting figures declared by the government triggered huge demonstrations in Iran and gravely undermined the regime’s legitimacy.

Two months later, in next-door Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai did exactly the same thing. All but one of his opponents would have been eliminated in the first round of voting, so his re-election as president in the second round was assured. He had bribed the northern warlords to deliver large blocks of votes to him, and in the south his Pashtun ethnic roots made him the favored candidate among those who dared to vote.

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