Iran: a victory which marks the end of an era?
The Iranian elections have caused a real passion inside its own population and also all over the world during these past few weeks. The outside world was astonished to discover such a vivid political life in a country presented as closed and back warded in the western media, while we at Cafe Thawra showed the opposite in our article “Iran, 30 years after the Revolution”. The candidate Moussavi, qualified of centrist or moderate conservative, ex Prime Minister of Iran during the Iraq- Iran war between 1980-1988, promised in his campaign gender equality and promotion of women’s rights, as well as the suppression of the “moral” police. The reformist candidate Karoubi also declared his will to liberalize the society. A great enthusiasm was discernable throughout the Iranian society, as we were able to observe it in the different rallies, especially the ones of Moussavi, where political discourses were mixed with songs for the youth.
High hopes from the outside and especially from the inside were launched in these elections. The results of the polls few days ago, giving the current President Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad victorious over the candidate Moussavi by 63% against 34% of the votes, had yet created a wind of revolt throughout the country. The dynamics surrounding this movement of revolt are numerous and complexes: how can we check the veracity and the impartiality of the elections? Are we observing a struggle for power between the different political trends inside the Islamic Republic of Iran? Is the popular movement contesting against the result of the elections or more widely against the regime? Is the Islamic Republic experiencing its last few days?
Numbers of questions that shall try to answer through a deep analysis far from the scene of events.
Our first question goes naturally toward the results the authenticity of the elections, which have known a participation record of 85%. A large number of Iranians that came down in the streets of Teheran and other cities in a protest movement unprecedented since the Revolution in 1979 (more than hundreds and thousands from the day of the results on Saturday until now) are feeling robbed, hence the slogan “Where is my vote” brandished by the supporters of Moussavi. The three defeated candidates have besides registered a complaint for a total of 646 irregularities to the Council of the Constitution Guard (1). This latter is the institution governed by six high religious dignitaries appointed by the Supreme Guide Ali Khameini and of six Islamic jurists which guarantees that the laws adopted in the Parliament comply with the Sharia and the Iranian Constitution but also ratifies the result of the elections. It declared, with the consent of the Supreme Guide, its intention to proceed to a new partial count, but excluded any cancellation of the polls as claimed by Moussavi and the others. Is it a way to gain time and hope the protests will decrease after few days? This is the opinion of the editor in chief of the Iranian conservative newspaper Kayhan International published in English, Hamid Najafi, who says that the investigation of the Council of the Guardian will bring back civil peace and appeased the opposition (2).
Beyond this, the source of the problem lies in the fact that there is no way to check if the result of the elections were manipulated and controlled by the government. Only few independent observers were on the field to debrief the sequence of the votes, therefore any clear analyse of the results are difficult as well as the disclosure of any fraud. Ken Ballen, the president of the thinking group Terror Free Future located in Washington, had conducted three weeks ago a telephone survey to 1001 Iranians. The inquiry, conform to the results of Saturday, gave Ahmadinejad victorious with 34% of the voting intentions, against 14% for Moussavi(3). This is why, with advantage of two against one, Ken Ballen thinks its plausible the current president won the elections, although he admits that 27% of the interrogated people during the survey had not yet decided their candidate and that it could have changed the results (4). Walter Mebane, a university student of Michigan, also analysed the elections with statistics tools made to detect frauds called “election examination”. Techniques of analyse differ, but the results are finally the same: in comparing the elements of 366 districts with the past presidential election of 2005 (5), Walter Mebane observed that the results of the elections were in conformity to the tendencies existing before. For example in 2009 M. Ahmadinejad had his best results in the cities where he already enjoyed his highest supports in 2005. The specialist underlines nevertheless that the information provided by the Iranian authorities are not enough detailed to make an exhaustive analysis. He therefore does not reject the possibility of a manipulation, but he explains that his own results would have been globally the same than the one of last Saturday, the day of the results.
M. Moussavi supporters on their side, pointed out the great promptness with which they counted the millions of votes or even the unexpected victory of M. Ahmadinejad in the own city of M. Moussavi (6). The last few days, the mystery grew as a secret letter was published in different western newspapers and distributed in Teheran claiming the victory of M. Moussavi#. According to this report written by the Iranian Interior Minister and addressed to the Supreme Guide , M. Moussavi won the election with 19 075 623 votes, followed by the reformist Mehdi Karoubi with 13 387 104 voices while, the current President M. Ahmadinejad only obtained 5 698 417 votes (7). The paper however adds that the results will be modified in order that M. Ahmadinejad is declared winner following the will of the Supreme Guide. Unfortunately, the authenticity of this letter is impossible to prove and does not allow us to take these sources as given. Moussavi is not the only one to contest the results, the reformist candidate Karoubi also called to the cancellation and a new round of election, but more surprisingly the conservative candidate Mohsen Rezai denounced the irregularities in the ballot declaring that few districts have reached140% of participation according to the internet site Tabnak(8). This latter also criticized the refusal of the Interior Minister to deliver the details of the results and he pursued his critics towards the Guardian Council of the Constitution and the pressure made on few religious dignitaries to convince them to congratulate M. Ahmadinejad(9). We can therefore observe that the elections results were considered by all the candidates polemical, exception made of the the current president, and denounced it, but no credible and verified information have currently prove any manipulation of the regime in the ballot.
Nevertheless the growing opposition in the streets and from the candidates since Saturday 13th of June shows the struggle inside the Islamic Republic of Iran and the refusal of a large number of the population to accept the new order represented by the coalition between the Supreme Guide Khameini and the current President Ahmadinejad.
Firstly, the struggle opposing M. Ahmadinejad and M. Moussavi remains inside the Islamic Republic of Iran’s framework, both candidates are parts of the system and no one has the ambition to put an end to it. We are currently observing a struggle for power from different groups within the regime. We have on one side a coalition gathering personalities with different careers such as M. Moussavi and the two ex Presidents M. Khatami and H. Rafsandjani. This latter during his mandate lead an economic liberalisation of the country, which allowed him to become the richest man of the country, not without having used corruption according to many Iranians, while M. Khatami launched many reforms from social to freedom rights issues. An era of liberalisation started in the country, but in the same time a new force was raising: the Guardian of the Revolution. They firstly won the municipal elections in 2003, the legislatives elections in 2004 and an ex Member, M. Ahmadinejad, became President of the Republic in 2005. The traditional division between conservative and reformers was over, and most of the religious dignitaries are since then part of the opposition to the regime such as Ayatollah Montazeri, who notably called for three mourning days in memory of the demonstrators killed on Monday 15th, declared his will to reconsider the principle of willayt e-faquih which grants enormous power to the Supreme Guide(10).
The confrontation is therefore opposing schematically the religious and the Bazaaris on one side against the Supreme Guide and the Guardians of the Revolution on the other side, a new political and economic actor in the country. A real split within the power is distinguished by the conflict opposing Ahmadinejad, who has the strategic support of the Supreme Guide, and Rafsandjani, who allied himself strategically to M. Moussavi and his ex enemies of the reformist camp. M. Ahmadinejad very often denounced during his campaign Rafsandjani’s role in the corruption system existing inside the country, accusing him to be at the centre of it. According to an Iranian analyst who wants to remain anonymous, if the Supreme Guide has preferred to stand with and support M. Ahmadinejad in favouring military values over religious values, this is because he feels threaten by Rafsandjani who is in charge since 2006 of the Assembly of the Expert, which can supervise, elect or even dismiss the Supreme Guide. This latter has since few years surrounded himself with new personalities such as the current President, Ali Larjani President of the Parliament or Said Jalili secretary of the Supreme Council, while disposing of ancient official regimes and remove religious dignitaries from political decisions.
This is why, according to the Iranian analyst, A. Khameini would have manipulated the results, but he continues in reminding us that M. Ahmadinejad enjoys serious support guaranteeing him a lot of votes: the Pasdaran, the bassijis network and Iran countryside where social aids from his government favoured them(11).
But in the same time, this analysis of the situation would not take into consideration Iran’s complexity in reducing the division between pro Ahmadinejad and pro Moussavi only on social differences. The researcher Babak Rahimi points out that it is wrong to estimate that the countryside working class all voted for M. Ahmadinejad and the middle class from the cities in favour of M. Moussavi(12). According to him, Iran is currently facing an ideological struggle between Iranians identifying themselves with an image of a strong Iran advocated by the current President following the original pureness of the Islamic Revolution and on the other side Iranian willing a less aggressive Iran, more open to the world and more democratic. These election have been perceived by many as a referendum on what future the Islamic Republic should take.
We were able to see how the reaction from the demonstrators was rapid , people gathering through Twitter or other communications tools. The demonstrator’s main demand is a new round of election or the recount of the votes, and they also want to show their opposition to the new President who they despise. The Regime on its side has severely reacted to this opposition by killing, injuring and imprisoning many demonstrators, unfortunately no precise numbers are available. A high number of politicians, advisors, analysts, human rights activists and journalists close to Moussavi and opposed to the results of the election have been arrested, for example five family members of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani were arrested for taking part in an illegal protest on last Saturday (13). Foreign journalists have in their large majority be obliged to leave the country on the request of the government. The Supreme Guide’s warned the population during his Friday sermon of any demonstration to take place, gave M. Ahmadinejad an unfailing support and ruling out any electoral fraud.
The demonstration and the opposition in the streets are nevertheless not decreasing even with the repression of the Regime, this latter is not able to close the foothold opened by the demonstrators and these elections. The violent repression shows a profound crisis of the regime’s legitimacy a crisis which also includes the Supreme Guide Ali Khameini’s authority, a new element since the Revolution in 1979. We have also seen that the struggle at summit of the State between the current President Ahmadinejad and the President of the Assembly of the Expert Rafsandjani, which is definitely having consequences on the stability of the regime. The consequences of these events will be considerable in the Iranian society and on the institutions, the only question left is when will it happen? Tomorrow? Few weeks? Months? The next presidential elections? Not sure yet, but change is on the way.
In conclusion, we can once more observe in our modern history that the Iranian population is ready to rise to make its voice and opinion heard by his representatives, which reveals a high political culture existing in the country since the Constitutional revolution in 1906, passing through the Revolution in 1979 and today as observed with the demonstrations. The message is clear: « The people are part of the decisions process in the country and have the right to claim it ». A lesson for the countries of the region still awaiting their first revolution…
1) Orient le Jour ; Les candidats battus ont porté plainte pour 646 irrégularités ; 19/06/2009
2) Orient le Jour ; Les candidats battus ont porté plainte pour 646 irrégularités ; 19/06/2009
3) Orient le Jour ; La rue défie le pouvoir des mollahs ; 16/06/2009
4) Orient le Jour ; La rue défie le pouvoir des mollahs ; 16/06/2009
5) Orient le Jour ; Les candidats battus ont porté plainte pour 646 irrégularités ; 19/06/2009
6) Orient le Jour ; Les candidats battus ont porté plainte pour 646 irrégularités ; 19/06/2009
7) Orient le Jour ; Une lettre secrète qui prouve que Moussavi a gagné ? ; 20/06/2009
8) Orient le Jour ; Jusqu’à 140 % de votes dans certaines circonscriptions ? ; 20/06/2009
9) Orient le Jour ; Jusqu’à 140 % de votes dans certaines circonscriptions ? ; 20/06/2009
10) Le Temps ; L’Iran divisé se cherche une nouvelle voie ; 17 juin 2009 ; Par Delphine Minoui, Téhéran
11) Le Temps ; L’Iran divisé se cherche une nouvelle voie ; 17 juin 2009 ; Par Delphine Minoui, Téhéran
12) Le Temps ; L’Iran divisé se cherche une nouvelle voie ; 17 juin 2009 ; Par Delphine Minoui, Téhéran
13) Al Jazeera English