’s electoral dilemma – Rafsanjani or Ahmadinejad?
In late February 2004 when Iranian
voters went to polling place to elect their parliamentary members, the supreme
‘Guardian Council’ barred some 2500 reformist candidates.
As a result,
’s parliament became a mouthpiece of the conservative Mullahs.
At that time, I wrote an article entitled “End
of the Road for Reforms in
?” Quite a few newspapers and
web site published that piece in which I made a forecast that reform movement
will come to a standstill in
. It seems as if my prediction came
17, 2005, Iranians went to polling places to select their president from a field
of candidates. There were
hardliners, moderates, and pragmatic candidates.
However, in this presidential election, the majority of the voters chose
candidates who were either archconservative or semi-conservative.
The reformist candidate came out fifth in the contest.
The two most vote getters were Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, a veteran
Iranian Mullah who is considered an insider in the circle of the ruling clerics.
The candidate who came second is a newcomer to the national politics by
the name Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr.
Ahmadinejad is the appointed mayor of Teheran and a veteran of Iranian army who
if elected would favor more Islamization of the central authority in
the election was held on June 17, 2005, it took two days to know the standing of
the candidates in the poll. Ayatollah
Rafsanjani garnered 21% votes and the mayor of Teheran, Mr. Ahmadinejad received
nearly 19.5% votes. The former
Parliament speaker, Mahdi Karroubi, came out third with 19.3% vote.
Mr. Karroubi’s campaign manager, Ali Akbar Montashamipour, had already
complained to the newspaper reporters that the military had interfered on behalf
of Ahmadinejad. He even went as far
as saying that the election was rigged.
reformist candidate, Mr. Mostafa Moin, who was favored by reformist Iranians,
came out a distant fifth in the contest capturing only 14% of the vote.
Allegedly a record 67% of the voters came to the polling places.
Still then, many civil rights activists are calling the election a farce.
learned from an AFP report published on June 19, 2005, that Iranian Nobel
laureate, Shirin Ebadi is disenchanted with the election result.
She told AFP, “As long as there is this supervisory law on elections I
will not take part in any election. Iranians
have enough political awareness to make the right decision on their own and they
don't need a political prescription from people like me.
I’m neither an opposition leader nor a party leader.”
Ms. Ebadi was referring to limitless power of unelected hardliners (the
Guardian Council) to choose who can actually stand for public office.
The Guardian Council is the ultimate weapon the clerics of
have to control the power in parliament. They
are not going to give it way no matter how much complain the West does calling
the council anti-democratic institution the mullahs have formed in
the first round of election, the crowded field of half a dozen or so candidates
is now left with two candidates. One
is a former hardliner cleric, Ayatollah Rafsanjani, who claims to have moderated
his position vis-à-vis West to appease tens and thousands of reform-minded
voters. The second candidate,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a champion of Islamism in
who truly represents the archconservative ruling clerics of the nation.
On top of it, Mr. Ahmadinejad has wide support amongst the military of
candidates have already opened their mouth in the aftermath of June 17 election
while complaining vociferously the way the ruling clerics have favored one
particular candidate over the others. They
think the mayor of Teheran, Mr. Ahmadinejad, had received a wide support from
the ruling clerics in this election. In
the runoff election for president, the ruling clerics will undoubtedly support
the candidacy of Mr. Ahmadinejad.
the vast majority of reformist-minded voters would do in the runoff election is
not certain but two scenarios are painted in the newspapers.
Many liberals who favor the opinion of Ms. Shirin Ebadi now say that they
will boycott the election because both the contestants have similar views except
that Ayatollah Rafsanjani now says he favors moderation and maintain ties with
the West. Mullah Rafsanjani, 70, who
was the president of
from 1989 through 1997 for two terms, is a mix of political cunning and
business power. He is a nominal head
of a family empire that includes an airline and a large cut of the nation’s
pistachio export business. He is
well respected among the inner circles of the theocracy.
Therefore, the Ayatollahs and other mullahs in
will tolerate him as the president. He
now portrays himself as the most capable and middle of the road leader to handle
’s delicate negotiations with the West over its nuclear ambitions, which the
Bush Administration claims is a cover for a weapons program.
The government of
however maintains it only seeks peaceful nuclear power.
other candidate, Mr. Ahmadinejad, draws his support from
’s ultra-conservative wings such as veterans of the 1980-1989 war with
and the civilian “basiji” militia corps with ties to the ruling
establishment. Among his supporters
are older voters who see Islam as a panacea for
. The ex-military men and their
family members will also support his candidacy.
It seems therefore that Mr. Ahmadinejad will be favored by the ruling
clerics. To his credit he was a
member of a militant student faction during the revolution (1979) and later
volunteered to fight on the front lines against Saddam Hussein’s forces in the
1980s. He served in provincial posts
in the 1990s before being appointed as mayor of
in 2003 by the conservative-led municipal council.
is a big difference between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad as far as campaign style
goes. Ayatollah Rafsanjani ran a
slick and sophisticated Western-style campaign that portrayed him as the
seasoned and trusted political navigator, “wise to the ways of international
diplomacy, strong enough to stare down the United States but astute enough to
know when to return to fight another day” – as one analyst remarked.
An AP reporter said, “Mr. Rafsanjani was shown on state-run television
chatting with his wife, talking to young people, listening to girls dressed in
modest coats and headscarves but not the all encompassing black chador.”
contrast to Rafsanjani, the arch conservative mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, embraces his image of the simple, unpolished man who told a news
conference that he could not foresee improved ties with any country that
“seeks hostility” against Iran, a usual reference to the United States the
country labeled by Ayatollah Khomeini as “Great Satan.”
Experts described Ahmadinejad’s campaign style as “old-school”
reminiscent of the days before the heavy emphasis on television images and sound
bites. Also, Ahmadinejad passed out
pamphlets and had his supporters plaster cement walls with his picture.
The appointed mayor of Teheran is unabashedly conservative, and holds the
had seen enough political reform. His
campaign mantra has been to tap into
’s national pride. His favorite
slogan: “It is possible and we can do it.”
His second favorite was “Islamization of the administration,” an
indication of the conservative path he is sure to follow if elected.
that it is crystal clear two conservatives will be running head-to-head in the
upcoming presidential runoff, what would the nation’s liberal and
reform-minded voters do? Will they
boycott the election and stand on the sideline to see the archconservative
candidate, Mayor Ahmadinejad, win the election with the support of the ruling
clerics? Or, should they support
Ayatollah Rafsanjani because he says he prefers moderation and wants to mend
fences with the West? Without the
support from reformist minded voters Ayatollah Rafsanjani will not be able to
win this election. On that
assumption, we expect Rafsanjani to further shift his position—more to the
liberal and pragmatic side. Stay
tuned for we are going to see the chameleon candidate Rafsanjani assuming a new
demeanor pretty soon.
A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from
Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah
election is a sham. The ruling clerics are fully behind Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad
is simply a pawn propped by the Mullahs to give the voters no other choice,
force them to vote in huge numbers and hence give the semblance of legitimacy to
the final elections. The Mullahs are applying the old Persian adage that says:
"Offer them death so they be content with fever". If Iranians go
to vote, they have fallen into the trap of the Mullahs. This whole
election is nothing but a mockery of the voters. The result of the election was
already decided a few years ago. Neither Rafsanjani nor Ahmadinejad have any
support in Iran. It makes no difference whether 60 people vote or 60 million;
the result is already decided. The rest is theatrics. I am surprised how
outsiders know so little about the Mullahs' cunningness.