Iran News ...


07/09/09

The Iranian Presidential Elections: "The most improvised moment in Iranian history"

Written by Ali Delforoush, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)


People voting in the city of Shiraz

Washington DC - The recent presidential election in Iran was "the most improvised moment in Iranian history," according to Farideh Farhi, professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Part of a panel discussion at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Farhi said that recent events have been mismanaged and mishandled by both sides of the ongoing election dispute. "Irrespective of the electoral fraud claims, this election was mishandled and both institutions failed to provide conflict resolution, especially the office of the Supreme Leader."

Farhi went on to say, Khamenei "botched" the Friday Prayer following the first week of the elections by failing to offer any remedy for the opposition. The hardliners mismanaged the post-elections crisis by undermining the significant backlash that would follow the disputed election results. According to Farhi, their most flawed act was the rift the Ahmadinejad camp created between the cleric ranks during the pre-election debates.

The recent presidential election in Iran was "the most improvised moment in Iranian history," according to Farideh Farhi, professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Part of a panel discussion at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Farhi said that recent events have been mismanaged and mishandled by both sides of the ongoing election dispute. "Irrespective of the electoral fraud claims, this election was mishandled and both institutions failed to provide conflict resolution, especially the office of the Supreme Leader."

Farhi went on to say, Khamenei "botched" the Friday Prayer following the first week of the elections by failing to offer any remedy for the opposition. The hardliners mismanaged the post-elections crisis by undermining the significant backlash that would follow the disputed election results. According to Farhi, their most flawed act was the rift the Ahmadinejad camp created between the cleric ranks during the pre-election debates.

Similarly, Farhi also argued that the opposition movement also mishandled the election crisis by assuming that there would not be a large amount of electoral manipulation. They wrongly believed that massive manipulation would be dangerous for the hardliners and therefore through the conservatives would avoid committing large-scale irregularities. Hence by relying on this ideology the reformists "followed the 1997 Khatami campaign model" and expected a high level of participation to be enough to secure a victory.

The panel also included Woodrow Wilson public policy scholar Robin Wright, who said the demonstrations in Iran "are not counter-revolutionary." On the contrary, the people are simply trying to "refine the regime and make it more accountable." Wright portrayed Iranians are "trailblazers" in the Middle East by arguing that the recent events in Iran are driven by masses of people from all ages and all classes which have taken to the streets and produced a notion of civil disobedience that has not been on display since the days of the 1979 revolution.

Wright argued that the government of Iran has never been more vulnerable than it is now, and the Supreme Leader faces a real challenge of legitimacy in the eyes of the people. According to Wright a number of factors will determine the future of Iranian politics. First is leadership, which is an area in which the opposition is more vulnerable. If Mousavi fails to provide strong leadership, the opposition will look elsewhere and could easily flounder. Second is unity, which is an area where the Iranian government is more vulnerable as many in the governmental hierarchy are worried about the long term consequences of the crackdown. As a result there has been a mixture of reactions to the treatment of the demonstrations; the parliament has voiced criticism as have the rank and file members of the Revolutionary Guard. Third is momentum; the critical question here is how will the opposition manage to sustain itself? According to Wright, although the momentum of the opposition has slowed down, "things will never be the same and there is no going back to the pre-election phase."

Last on the panel, Fariborz Ghadar, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, shed some light on the tension among the senior clerical ranks by examining the economic dealings of the government of Iran. Ghadar framed the discussion by asking the fundamental question of: "who gets the money in Iran?" According to him the Supreme Leader controls 30% of the economy and gives major multi-billion dollar contracts to senior members of the Revolutionary Guards. This makes it even more crucial to find out who directly controls these centers of power in Iran. Meanwhile the 'bonyads' or the foundations which are controlled by senior cleric Rafsanjani are having a difficult time landing major contracts. Thus according to Ghadar the debate over the future of Iran's economy has essentially transformed into a showdown between Khamenei's and Rafsanjani's followers.

The panelists were united in their view that the recent unrest in Iran has put in jeopardy even the most fundamental tenets of the Iranian system of government, including the system of Velāyat-e faqih. Unless the leadership changes its behavior, the situation in Iran is unlikely to be resolved soon. According to the panelists, a more difficult task will be for the United States to determine whether to pursue engagement with Iran, which would mean recognizing Ahmadinejad's electoral victory despite the continuing opposition movement.

... Payvand News - 07/09/09 ... --



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