Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, February 22, 2016

Reformers? Not us.

Can you identify what stage of revolution (from Crane Brinton's historical model) Iran is in now?

Iran’s Thwarted Reformers Set Careful Goals for Coming Vote
A decade of relentless pressure from the judiciary, the Revolutionary Guards and clerical councils dominated by hard-liners has confined Iran’s reformists. The reformists were a force during the presidential contest of 2009, but the movement was decapitated after its political leaders voiced support for the millions of people who took to the streets to challenge the fairness of the vote. Reformist parties were closed down, and hundreds of activists, politicians and journalists were given long jail sentences…

The election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 raised the hopes of the reform movement… But internally, virtually nothing changed. The political space remained constrained, and the hope that reformers would re-emerge as a guiding force has not come to fruition…

During the campaign rally, the new leader of the reformists, Mohammad Reza Aref, seemed most concerned with reassuring hard-liners who accuse his movement of opposing the legacy of the 1979 revolution. “We act within the system,” Mr. Aref said in front of thousands of supporters. “Nobody loves the revolution more than us. Like a mother, we feel concern for it and want to preserve it.”

For the elections, thousands of reformist candidates were barred from participating by the Guardian Council, a 12-member vetting body that is dominated by hard-liners. As a result, the remaining reformists have joined forces with supporters of Mr. Rouhani’s self-styled moderate government.

In the other election, for the Assembly of Experts… the reformists are also supporting alternative candidates. Their main figure, Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the leader of the 1979 revolution, was also barred from participating…

In the early 2000s, the reformists openly sought to alter the Islamic republic’s rigid ideology, and rewrite laws in order to decrease gender inequality and promote personal freedoms. The leader, Mr. Khatami, served two terms as president, and for four years the reformists dominated Parliament. Backed by record numbers of voters, they seemed set to herald a new, more modern era for Iran. Instead, the period was dominated by political infighting, student protests, sit-ins in Parliament and the closure of dozens of reformist newspapers.

However, Iran’s young society has changed at a lightning pace over the past decade, propelled by the rise of the Internet, satellite television, the influx of oil money and cheap foreign travel…

Political reforms have been aggressively blocked on all levels by hard-liners who have gained unprecedented power. Much has been done to undermine the reformists…

Iranians often say they get to choose between the bad and the worse in elections. While the reformists might have difficulty promoting their agenda, they are political kingmakers. They can attract millions of potential voters because they are the only viable political option for many urban dwellers. However, these people will vote only if they feel something is at stake. Used to self-censorship, and shy of the dangers of political activism, they tend to turn out in large numbers if they feel it is in their interest…

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