Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, May 06, 2013

Review of Iranian politics

Jason Rezalan, writing in The Washington Post, offers a retrospective analysis of Iranian politics and how things have changed since the last presidential election.

I suspect his final paragraph(s) were edited out of this version of the story, because there seems to be no conclusion or summing up.

Maybe that would be a good thing for your students to write.

Iran’s protest movement seems sidelined heading into June elections
As Iran prepares to elect a new president, the anti-establishment energy that drove violent protests four years ago has disappeared, quashed by the heavy-handed crackdown in 2009 that followed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s contested reelection.

The unlikely leaders of that opposition movement, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have been under house arrest since 2011, and most of the student leaders and activists who helped organize the rallies are either in prison or living abroad, removed from the daily realities of a country whose focus on an economic crisis bears little resemblance to the struggles of four years ago…

The elections are June 14, but there are few indications of the excitement and anticipation for change that animated the prior contest and fueled the months of protests that followed…

In some ways, it is Ahmadinejad who is now fighting the clerical establishment, but the election battle is shaping up along a fairly narrow spectrum, with little indication thus far of candidates who might rattle conservative leaders…

The four candidates in that election were representative of the Islamic republic’s ruling establishment, although their allegiances varied wildly.

Ahmadinejad, the incumbent, had the support of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, as well as key clerics, including Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The most conservative candidate, Mohsen Rezaei, had commanded the Revolutionary Guard for 16 years, including throughout the Iran-Iraq War.

And the two men that became the unlikely faces of the post-election opposition were Mousavi, former prime minister of eight years, and Karroubi, a cleric in his 70s who served two terms as speaker of Iran’s parliament. The two echoed the sentiments of many Iranians who believed Ahmadinejad’s first term had tarnished the country’s international image and isolated the country diplomatically and economically.

Although both were considered reformists, neither questioned the legitimacy of the Islamic republic — including after they said the election was stolen from them — making them unlikely to usher in real change, even according to many who joined the protest movement.

By the end of the summer of 2009, countless Iranians involved in the protests seized any opportunity they could to leave the country…

Iranians who remained in the country after the election say that those 2009 protests, known as Iran’s Green Movement, included two very divergent strains — those who believed that the election was tainted and those who sought the end of the Islamic republic…

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