Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Analyses of 2013 Iranian Presidential Election


Persian and English-language analyses which have attempted to comprehend these events have ranged from a dismissal of the election process as a completely engineered one to uncritical support for the election results. Among the many analyses which I have read, I have found the Persian-language analyses by Mohammad Nourizad and Mohammad Reza Nikfar to be the most thoughtful.
On June 15, Hassan Rouhani, a cleric and former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, was announced as the victor in Iran’s presidential election. Given the vetting process which had limited the candidates to those approved by the Supreme Religious Leader, Khamenei, and considering the continued house arrest of the real frontrunners of the 2009 election and the bloody suppression of the mass protests that followed the election fraud in 2009, many observers were surprised by the street celebrations that followed the announcement of Rouhani’s victory.

Persian and English-language analyses which have attempted to comprehend these events have ranged from a dismissal of the election process as a completely engineered one to uncritical support for the election results. Among the many analyses which I have read, I have found the Persian-language analyses by Mohammad Nourizad and Mohammad Reza Nikfar to be the most thoughtful.

Nourizad is a filmmaker and former journalist with the state-run Kayhan newspaper who broke with the regime after the 2009 election. He was subsequently imprisoned, tortured, placed in solitary confinement, and released after going on a hunger strike.

He argues that the election marked “the resurrection a moribund entity.” Since Ayatollalh Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “have reached an impasse and are seeing doors closed to them on all global fronts, they themselves created a situation for someone like Rouhani to come into power and open these doors for them one by one. I think that from now on we will see some correct steps taken. Of course, the leader {Khamenei} will have to not show such sensitivity to negotiations with the United States. Considering that an entity called Iran is now in a moribund state, we will see some substantial negotiations take place.” (1)

Mohammad Reza Nikfar, an Iranian philosopher and journalist in exile in Germany argues that although the election was engineered through the process of vetting the candidates and only allowing for the regime’s “followers/beneficiaries” to be on the slate, the candidates nevertheless represented different factions within the regime. He claims that the majority of those who voted, chose the faction that was the least hawkish on the nuclear issue.

“Large parts of the population correctly saw uranium intertwined with abject poverty and wanted the president to be someone who claims to choose a path in which turning on the centrifuges would not be at the expense of shutting down the country…Within the Islamic Republic, uranium is the code word for a Mafioso group which subsists on secret deals and trafficking. However, there are also those within the Islamic Republic’s Corporation who see profits accrued to them through a competitive market, rational from the standpoint of the logic of capitalism and with fewer tensions with the outside world. These members were able to win during the electoral competition… Doctor Sheikh Hassan Rohani’s rationality is their rationality. This rationality will make changes in the government, changes along the lines of what is desirable for the rich, the rich with a capitalist rationality.” (2)

Nourizad seems to differ in this respect. On the once hand he writes: “The IRGC generals who have poked their heads into every project and put their own {economic} demands on the table at every opportunity, are now gradually facing the position that either they have to return to their barracks or they will have to engage in a confrontation with Mr. Rouhani.” On the other hand, he writes: “Demands which question the presence of the IRGC generals everywhere, in the parliament and elsewhere, and call for them to return to their barracks, are not ones that we can expect from Mr. Rouhani or the reformists.”

Neither Nikfar nor Nourizad is hopeful about any major democratic changes from above that would bring about freedom of speech/press/assembly, women’s rights, labor rights and the rights of religious or national minorities. However, they anticipate that some political prisoners beginning with the last election’s real frontrunners, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi as well as Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, might be released.

Nikfar also says the following about those Iranians who boycotted the election: “They are the main progressive force. Someone who is not willing to vote for any of the representatives of the regime, wants a fundamental transformation.” (3)

Frieda Afary
www.iranianprogressives.org
July 24, 2013


Notes:


  1. "انتخاب روحانی احیای مجدد موجود محتضر بود" مصاحبه محمد نوری زاد با دویچه وله. 16 ژوئن 2013 (“Rohani’s Election Was the Resurrection of a Moribund Entity” Interview with the Persian Deutsche Welle. June 16, 2013)
  2. "اکنون زمان طرح مطالبات است." گفتگوی محمد رضا نیکفر با اخبار روز. 16 ژوئن 2013 (“Now Is the Time for Raising Demands.” Interview with Mohammad Reza Nikfar. Akhbar- Rooz, June 16, 2013.)
  3. Concerning those who boycotted the election, see Farzaneh Raji. “Ma Dovvom Shodim.” Akhbar-e Rooz. June 16, 2013.





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