Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 03, 2009

It doesn't matter who is president in Iran

At least, Mehdi Khalaji, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, doesn't think it matters. His advice is not to let an election get in the way of understanding Iranian politics.

Iran’s Muddled Presidential Politics

"In trying to sort out [the election] muddle, the most important thing to keep in mind is not so much who will be elected, but what that choice will reveal about the intentions of the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Unfortunately, the most likely outcome will be continuing transformation of the Islamic Republic from a civil government into a garrison state in which the military plays a major role in determining political and economic matters...

"Ayatollah Khamenei, who is... the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, oversees the agencies that will run the election: the Guardian Council and the Ministry of Interior, which supervise the electoral process, and the Basij militia and Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), which unofficially control the ballot-boxes and the vote-counting process...

"Perhaps one of the most significant elements in Iran’s stagnation is that the Revolutionary Guards control a large portion of the economy, and are beyond the reach of government regulation. In order to manage the economic crisis successfully, any president must not only shift economic policy, but also amass enough political power to be able to thwart the intervention of the Revolutionary Guards and other organizations in economic policy-making...

"Speculation about the outcome of the election is an interesting parlor game. But it should not distract us from the fundamentals of Iranian politics... [O]n the big issues of foreign policy, relations with the West, and the nuclear program, the identity of the president is not important. These issues will be decided by a man who is not running for office in June, but whose power is secure: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader."

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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