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Iran - Præsidentvalg med overraskelser:
Iran’s presidential coup
Ardashir Tehrani, 27. juni 2005
The victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran’s presidential elections was orchestrated from within the hardline clerical regime, says Ardashir Tehrani.
All predictions that former president Hashemi Rafsanjani would win Iran’s presidential election, including Rafsanjani’s own, went wrong. Instead, according to official figures, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardline mayor of Tehran, was the decisive victor in the second round by 61% to 39%.
This was a coup d’état led by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It was foreseeable as soon as it became known that between 66 and 70 of the new members of the majlis (parliament) elected in February 2004 were members of the Revolutionary Guards militia – enough to give these forces, and the ruling elite, control of the institution.
In the presidential election, the coup extended to the executive branch. I had thought that Mohammed-Bagher Ghalibaf, Iran’s former police chief and head of the customs service, would receive the full backing of conservative regime elements, but just before the first round of the election their support suddenly switched to Ahmadinejad. Ghalibaf himself went silent after his defeat, but not before making a statement whose significance was not fully registered – that he was “surprised” at his performance at the polls during the first round; “something had changed”, he said.
Indeed it had. General Firouzabadi, head of the joint chiefs of staff, issued an order that all militia forces vote for Ahmadinejad. Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, a real hardliner, had issued a fatwa urging everyone to do their “sharia duty” and vote for Ahmadinejad. There was also a rumour that every basiji (pro-regime vigilante) was told to recruit ten ordinary citizens to cast a vote for Ahmadinejad.
Why the need for a coup d’état? Because the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic was under threat. If one of the other candidates – particularly Rafsanjani, former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi, or Mostafa Moin – had started implementing the freedoms and open society they were promising the people, this could have been the beginning of the end of the Islamic Republic.
Hence, the determination to show the world that more than 60% of the electorate voted – and hence the ballot stuffing. There are rumours, reported on CNN, that several ministry of interior officials are under arrest because they wanted to reveal details about the riggings. Karroubi, Rafsanjani and Moin have all alluded to this as well.
Why did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – who was a member of the special forces of the Revolutionary Guards in the post-1979 revolution period, assigned with assassinations and other similar clandestine tasks – also receive so many “real” votes?
Why did Hashemi Rafsanjani receive only a proportion of the votes he and others thought he would?
The irony is that the mostazafin, who desperately seek a better life for themselves and their families, would have had a better chance under Rafsanjani, whom they dislike and rejected, than under Ahmadinejad – based on the agenda the latter put forward throughout his campaign. New investments, employment and a higher standard of living will not materialise under Ahmadinejad unless, once in power, he sees the realities of governance and reverses his promises.
What now in Iran?
The powers behind the throne believe they have thwarted a potential challenge to the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic and its perpetuation, and that they are now in control of all three of the state’s power-centres. They believe they control Ahmadinejad and will be able to give him directives to implement. I think that, in the long term, they may be wrong.
Ghalibaf, Ahmadinejad and similar younger officers in the militia corps are second-generation revolutionaries. They have witnessed first hand the corrupt practices of the first-generation revolutionaries – most of whom are now 70 and older – and how the latter have become rich and powerful.
It is now the second generation’s turn. Like a creeping-plant, their forces will slowly extend control over as many of the money-generating institutions as they can. Once this happens, they may decide to open up the country economically and begin moves to undermine the health, and even the lives, of some of Iran’s key leaders.
Moreover, throughout his campaign Ahmadinejad referred to various “mafias” controlling many sectors of Iran’s economy and his determination to break this – especially the oil industry (controlled by Rafsanjani) and the auto industry (overseen by another clique). The motalefe, the bazaar merchants who have dominated trade in Iran since 1979, voted for Hashemi Rafsanjani with the expectation that he would be the next president. They, too, may become the target of the new president’s attacks on groups that hold tight sway over certain sectors of the economy.
But what about the following of the departing president, Mohammad Khatami, the “Second of Khordad Movement”? For all practical purposes, the movement is dead unless it openly dares to disassociate itself from the regime and join the student movement to create a formal opposition force inside Iran. If it does this, others may coalesce around it to establish an opposition party.
Difficult? Yes, but plausible, depending on how gutsy the liberal elements want to be. What is certain, however, is that for the moment this potential opposition group cannot count on the support of the mostazafin as their natural constituency. Even before the election, this current could not identify itself with the opposition outside Iran even though it was desperate for change to give them a better life.
One thing is certain: there are many political twists and turns ahead in Iran!
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