By Nadav Eyal
Not only are the reformist leaders under house arrest – the regime now no longer allows its most prominent supporters to run, fearing their stances don't exactly match the views of Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards. ...It’s dangerous for Iran, but also and especially for the entire region.
Translated by Viktoria Lymar
Edited by Steven Stenzler
22 May 2013
The report that Rafsanjani won’t be able to run for president represents the regime’s unwillingness to gain public legitimacy. From a repressive regime to a totalitarian dictatorship.
Until about a decade ago, the Islamic Republic could take pride in one significant, and rare in our region, achievement. Apart from Israel (which is not taken into account, in Iranian eyes), it was the only country holding an election campaign that had a certain dimension of freedom.
"Certain," because all the candidates – whether their name was Khatami or Rafsanjani, whether considered reformists or conservatives – were part of the elite that agreed to the path of the Imam (Khomeini). They accepted the formula "Islamic Republic," i.e. electoral democracy, however, subject to the rules of Islam according to the ruling of the spiritual leader.
Iran was and remains very far from any Western democratic standard, but until a few years ago, it could have been proud that the results of the elections there aren't known in advance. Candidates don’t enjoy a majority of 99 percent like in Syria or Iraq or Egypt. And indeed, the election of Khatami the reformist was a surprise, as well as the rise of Ahmadinejad.
Nonetheless, the green uprising after the rigged elections of 2009 proved that the dimensions of the Iranian freedom are shrinking. The main force of the revolution lay in its popular legitimacy, yet it crashed once it was clear that the regime would not hesitate to use absolute repression and fake the last remnant of the slogan of the "Republic."
If last night's press release by the semi-official Mehr news agency is true – then indeed, the process has been completed. According to the news report, the Guardian Council – the body that approves or rejects candidates for elections – has disqualified two important candidates. The first to mention is Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani was president of Iran and is from among the last of the founders of the Islamic Republic, of Khomeini's disciples, a contemporary and a friend (supposedly) of the Supreme Leader Khamenei.
He is known as a shrewd, money-loving, pragmatic and well-connected politician. Rafsanjani's children were arrested in light of their opposition to Ahmadinejad and diverse protest actions, and when he announced his candidacy – hopes arose that the former president entered the race as a sign that the Spiritual Leader was seeking a more pragmatic policy. One conservative newspaper noted that Rafsanjani has come to save the motherland, no less.
There was a sense that the veteran politician can pull Iran out of international isolation and the economic crisis. Since he held a very senior position – head of the Assembly of Experts – the impression was that the regime would be unable to exclude him. Nevertheless, that's exactly what happened – according to the reports. Thus, the hope has faded for moderation and a fundamental change of line in Iran.
The second disqualified candidate was regarded as one who even threatens the rule of the ayatollahs. Rahim Mashaei, a close ally of Ahmadinejad and the leader of the deviant current, has been dismissed. By "deviant," it’s meant in Iran that Mashaei, along with Ahmadinejad, sanctified nationality and nationalism over religion. In other words, they tried to reduce the absolute veto power of the Spiritual Leader and limit the role of the clergy in governing the country.
If these candidates have been really declared ineligible, they can appeal. If Khamenei chooses to leave them out of the race, it is a complete and total end of all pretensions of the regime for legitimacy from the public. It’s not only that the reformist leaders (who, by the way, accept Khomeini's writings) are under house arrest – now, the regime no longer allows its most prominent supporters to contend, fearing their positions do not exactly match the views of Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards.
From an oppressive Islamic regime, which, however, has [some] dimensions of freedom, Iran is becoming a totalitarian dictatorship. It’s dangerous for it, but also and especially for the entire region.
The author is foreign news editor at Channel 10
Original Hebrew article:
Image credit: Mana Neyestani/EAWorldView;
Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA/LA Times
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