June 16, 2005

Iran: TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE, Farid Pouya

A- Lucky Eight: Divided Conservatives vs. More Divided Reformists

There are only eight candidates, among more than thousand, who received permission from the Council of Guardians, to run.
All of these “lucky eight” have been dedicated servants of Islamic Republic the last 26 years.
Five of them belong to conservative groups and three to reformist ones (look Table: Who is who?). Conservatives who control all important levels in Iran’s power structure, now want to conquer the last reformist‘s stronghold: Presidency. Despite many efforts conservatives failed to present unique candidate for election. Their candidates are 4 fundamentalists (Oosolgara) with military backgrounds and an independent conservative, Rafsanjani. Divided conservatives are facing more divided reformists. Khatami’s failure to accomplish his promises alienated many key reformists supporters. The election is being boycotted on one side by pro reform personalities such as Ebadi, a Noble Peace prize winner, and Ganji, a fearless jailed journalist, and on other side by many student groups, the backbone of reform during its early years. For them election is being held under unfair conditions. Even Moin, “progressive reformist” will be another failure like Khatami. Although Moin, the most active reformist in election, has created a common democracy and human rights front (alliance) with Liberal-Islamist opposition groups he failed to bring back mainstream supporters of reform. Even the reformist frontrunner journalists who back Rafsanjani see him as, a useful choice to prevent conservatives with a military background from gaining power!
Although conservatives are divided but their mainstream voters back them but reformists are divided and lack their key supporters. It is still possible that in last hours one or more candidates resign in favour of other one.

B- Images & Slogans: A perfume of Post-Islam era

By looking at Websites of candidates, it is evident that all candidates, both reformists and conservatives, use national references such as Iran’s map, national football team and economic images. No one, however, has used Quranic verses, Khomeini’s sayings or any reference to Islamic revolution. Political images and slogans are void of any mention of twenty-six years of Islamic Republic. This omission demonstrates that the candidates recognize that the voting Iranian population are not at all attracted with Islamic revolution’s symbols or values. Beyond their propaganda, the candidates know there are not many buyers for Islamic values. Falling traditional values, economic pressure, strong consumption society have given economic matters a central place in electoral marketing. In their eyes the Iranian population has become economically driven with a national, materialist identity.

Who is who? Click on the photo for better view.

A new post Islam perfume at least in political marketing doesn’t mean, however, that the candidates have changed mentality, only rhetoric.

C- Programs & Populism:

The programs of all of candidates are based upon general catch all party promises: economic development, more rights for women, the youth; democratization, justice. None of candidates, however, describes in detail how he would achieve this or that promise? Moin, progressive reformist, has distinguished himself from other candidates by creating a common front with a few liberal-islamist outsiders, playing human rights and democracy cards better than others. Populist slogans are widespread on both sides, conservative and reformist. Conservative Larijani promises to eliminate entrance examinations to universities, while Moin says he will declare General Amnesty. Both promises are meaningless. Entrance examinations are needed because demand is much higher than available places in universities. Larijani does not say how he is going solve that! Moin’s General Amnesty would have to be approved by the Iranian ultra conservative Parliament, which approval will not be forthcoming.
Both sides have failed to prove how in reality they can solve deep rooted economic and political problems.

D- USA & election

All of candidates speak softly of the relationship between Iran and the United States. They have promised economic prosperity to voters, which can not be happen if Iran continues to be isolated from the world. This isolation will not end if Iran remains hostile to the USA.
On their Web sites the candidates proudly publish interviews with American newspapers. Rafsanjani boasts of his interview with the New York Times on the first page of his website.
Ghalibaf was even accused by Baztab, a popular pro Rezai’s site, of fabricating an interview with Fox News.
Each candidate wants to convince Iranians that he is the favourite object of attention in the United States.

E- Opposition

Outside of Iran, almost all opposition groups from Left to royalist have boycotted the election. Inside country many personalities such as Ebadi and, Ganji as well as the student movements have boycotted too.
The, boycotters, believe that a low turnout of voters would cause Islamic Republic to lose its legitimacy. They also believe 8 years of Khatami show that reforms have are going nowhere. Two Iranian opposition academicians, US based Majid Mohamadi & Paris based Asadi, don’t share same point of view. They believe even a low turnout will not challenge the legitimacy of Islamic Republic because it is not based on democracy and its dictatorial nature of is already well known.
In their opinion by boycotting the election, the opposition has lost any chance of winning a share of power. Mohamadi has written that the election is a choice between bad & worse and Moin is the bad choice. (GOOYA NEWS)

F- President & Road Map

The most important challenge that future president will face is foreign affairs. Iran must move quickly to solve nuclear problem. This issue can be considered a real threat to the existence of I.R. There will therefore likely be a consensus among different factions in dealing with this problem. There will not be a real difference between a reformist and hard line conservative. Iran will probably use nuclear card, along with its influence in Iraq and Lebanon, to get as much as possible advantage from the West. As to Iran’s economic situation the presence of business oriented revolutionary foundations and power circles made up of family members of rulers (Aghazadeh) make any general economic development difficult to imagine. They would compete for a share of any money perfumed project. Any president even one with the best intentions cannot overcome these parallel forces. As Professor Nahavandi, a sociologist, points out probably there will be economic growth but gap between rich and poor will widen.
Political democratization is an illusion. None of conservative candidates in last 26 years has showed any real desire for a democratic society. Reformers on other hand will have the best excuses not to advance anything: a right wing Parliament and a divided reformist front ...
At best in a Moin government debate and discussion about human rights will stay alive and his cabinet would not restrict more Iranian people.
The next president will likely be flexible with regard social issues, allowing people continue to develop their underground world with alcohol, satellites and the like. Social development will be tempered, however, by an independent conservative judiciary system and Paramilitary forces such as Basij or Hezbollah which will remind people that a more liberal social free environment is not a right. It depends on IR‘s will to give and to take.
Another challenge will be ethnic minorities which aspire to have more power in their regions. An “autonomous” Kurdistan in Iraq, the oil-rich Republic of Azerbaijan and Iran-Arab tensions are among the factors which can influence corresponding minorities in country. Some candidates have spoken of a federal system. Without democracy, however, Iran will become more feudal rather than federal.

تبليغات خبرنامه گويا


One remarkable fact is that there is no debate between candidates. It seems that different factions of republic avoid real confrontation. Election is a like family business! Candidate’s slogans are real signs that, Iran has entered a post Islam era in which Islamic discourse belongs to history. Islamic Republic tries to adapt to changing situation in order to survive. The passage from post Islam to post Republic Islamic is a long way to travel and surely does not pass through this election.

Farid Pouya, political researcher

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