November 9, 2007

Post-war Presidents of Iran

You may directly go to the Part II of this post, if you are not eager/patient enough to read some details of Iran’s contemporary politics.

Part I: The Story

Few months after Ayatollah Khomeini, late founder of Iranian Revolution, consented to UN Security Council Resolution 598 (which ended Iran-Iraq war), he passed away out of severe illness. Since many prominent figures of Iran’s revolution got assassinated by opposition groups in the early periods of establishment of Islamic Republic, and some other got marginalized during post-revolution events prior to the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Khamenei (then president of Iran) and Ayatollah Rafsanjani (then parliament speaker of Iran) were the most important active political actors of then Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei was assigned to the leadership of Iran, and Ayatollah Rafsanjani got chosen as president for a 4-years-period. No rivals, no real competition.

Rafsanjani became the president of post-war Iran. He began reconstruction, and after 4 years, people chose him again with a fair vote. Pragmatism was the central part of his general strategy and approach, and technocrats got significant positions in his administration. Rebuilding infrastructures was his number one target, and ‘Dam Building’ turned to the symbol of reconstruction. In the case of cultural and political matters, he usually tried compromise. Limiting the power of extremists was also a part of his agenda, though due to post-war conditions he was not much successful in this case.

According to Iran’s constitution, one is allowed to claim presidency no more than two consecutive terms. Then, after his 2nd term of presidency, a real competition happened. The candidate of so-called traditional parties [i.e. those parties which were closer and more loyal to original values of revolution and the example set by Ayatollah Khomeini], who was believed to be the definite winner, lost the election to reformist candidate.

Khatami, reformist candidate, gathered 20 million and 22 million votes in his 1st and 2nd presidential elections respectively, which meant a significant win. His main promises in either campaign were defending the freedom of speech, establishing rule of law, spreading the influence of people’s vote in different parts of the system, protecting individual freedoms, etc. Many intellectuals believed that Khatami was aimed at helping Iranian society get closer to international community, giving up on some radical slogans which did much harm to the cause of Iran. The core ideology of reformist ideologues was that political reforms constitute the basis of any further reform, either economic or cultural or else.

After Khatami finished his 2 terms of presidency, an exciting competition happened. Many candidates participated, including:
- Ayatollah Hashemi (ex-president), with his well-known resume, also with some modifications in his behavior and slogans supposed to be necessary to attract the youth.
- Dr. Moein, reformist candidate and a key member of Khatami administration, believed to be more decisive and more liberal as a pro-reform actor (compared with Khatami).
- Ayatollah Karrubi, the ex-reformist parliament speaker, known to ordinary people for his famous slogan during presidential campaigns (assigning 50$ monthly to every Iranian, if he could win), and known to intellectuals for his ability to deal with Islamic Regime as a pro-reform actor (usually including compromise).
- Some candidates of so-called traditional parties, including Dr. Ahmadinejad as the most fanatic one.

As expected, none of the candidates could gather more than 50% of votes, extending elections to second round. Ayatollah Hashemi and Dr. Ahmadinejad went to the next round. For the second round, reformists officially supported Ayatollah Hashemi (in spite of all the criticisms they had previously expressed about him) to defeat Ahmadinejad. By the way Hashemi meant ‘lesser of two evils’ to some reformists, and ‘father or even caretaker of reformist movement’ to some other reformists. In an astonishing event, Ahmadinejad got around 13 million votes and Hashemi finished with less than 10 million votes.

Ahmadinejad had promises mainly focused on financial subjects, cutting dirty & corrupt hands which exploit national resources, and bringing the revenues of oil to the (dinner) table of people. He repeatedly stressed out that ‘original revolutionary values must be revived’. In the visits he paid to different provinces before elections, he used to meet war casualties [some of them with sever condition, for example those who were affected by chemical weapons, still live in special wards] as well as graves of the martyrs of Iran-Iraq war. Wearing Chefyeh [i.e. an originally Arabian cloth, similar to a scarf, which people use to cover head and neck in summer in southern provinces of Iran; for the same reason, Iranian soldiers extensively used it during war. After 8 years of Iran-Iraq war, Chefyeh turned into an important symbol of those who had sympathy with the values of war, especially martyrdom] was a straightforward message to all. Whatever the rational of his election, Ahmadinejad marked a significant breakthrough for fanatic supporters of (original values of) revolution.

Part II: Moral Result of Story

Choosing pragmatism/technocracy (Hashemi), political reformism (Khatami) and finally revolutionary extremism (Ahmadinejad)... does it show a drastic change in the way Iranians reason? Not necessarily. I think a simple theory might explain the whole event (at least to an extent): people, in lack of real political parties, resort to every possible option just to make an improvement in their day-to-day life. Note that Iranians don’t care what reformism or extremism might mean to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, they also pay no attention to the by-products of each option [i.e., given that an option makes life better is come ways, other outcomes of it might make life worse in other ways]. This is the first logical conclusion of the whole story. We may even be able to extend this theory to the Revolution itself.

Second logical conclusion might be that Iranians have not found out what is in the root of their problems. In the process of election, people face many important questions, including ‘Is a political reform required to make any further improvement’. Choosing Khatami means ‘yes’, choosing Ahmadinejad means ‘no’, and changing the mind from this to that means ‘I don’t know’.

The third logical conclusion in which I strongly believe is that before establishing full-scale democratic infrastructures (including real political parties) which can guide and manage the political life of the society, granting free-election right to the people might come to be the worst nightmare of the country.


shukh said...

جای ما توی این عکس خالی

Anonymous said...

سلام محمد
خیلی وقته ندیدمت
دورا دور جویای احوال شما بودیم ولی آدرسی تلفنی ازت نداشتم
به خانواده سلام برسون
sms می زنم.

محمد معماريان said...

جناب شوخ
وبلاگ متعلق به خودتونه

سلام دوست ناآشنا
حداقل اسمتان را می گذاشتید
خوش باشید

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