יום שני, דצמבר 18, 2006

 

Ahmadinejad's allies do poorly

Good news. If Ahmadinejad's "conference" on the Shoah was meant to mobilize his ultra-fundamentalist allies in the local-council and Assembly of Experts elections, the gambit backfired. According to Reuters India (a much more thorough source than most other English language media, though BBC has been good on this, too), turnout in these elections last Friday was much higher than had been expected (around 60%). The reformists were the ones who were mobilized, and they and more moderate conservatives have pushed Ahmadinejad's allies into a minority on the councils of Tehran and other major cities.

Even in the Experts election--one of the most important institutions in Iran--candidates loyal to Hashemi Rafsanjani (whom Ahmadinejad defeated in the surprise outcome of the June, 2005 presidential election) performed better than allies of Ahmadinejad.

Iran is not a democracy. Far from it. However, it is not a totalitarian state, either. And even if we want to call it a theocracy (whatever that might mean), we have to recognize that those who claim to determine how God wants Iran to be governed are divided over what that means. The Assembly of Experts consist of the clerics who effectively govern Iran through their influence on the Supreme Leader. The Experts also pick the new Supreme Leader--a task they are unlikely to be called on to perform until Ayatollah Khamanei dies. The Supreme Leader can't manage the country alone, and the balance of factions within the Islamic clergy affects how he manages the political process. And that "managing" includes exercising, directly or indirectly through other institutions he controls, his various vetoes over the president.

So, while the president was not on the ballot on Friday and neither was the parliament (with which Ahmadinejad has had numerous policy conflicts), the outcome shows that his bluster has not won him and the ultras within the clerical establishment additional support. In fact, the reverse has happened.

Ahmadinejad is weaker now that he was last week, and the chances that the next Supreme Leader will be from the ultra-fundamentalist camp just declined. This is good news.

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