Sunday, December 24, 2006

Iranian election setback for Ahmadinejad

A good round-up from Doug Ireland, despite some funky formatting.

An article on the increased cultural repression prior to the election from Quantara.de, a German site on dialogue with Islamic societies.

A slightly different, and less encoraging analysis from Jonathon Edelstein who warns that the electoral defeat of Ahmadinejad should not be viewed as an overwhelming popular rejection.

What does seem to be apparent from the election is a de facto "stop Ahmedinejad" alliance between the conservatives and the reformists. Khamenei continued to use the Guardians to reject many reformist candidates, but he recognized that he needed the votes of the pro-reform electorate, so he proved willing to allow them somewhat more political space than in 2004. This resulted in a modest reformist comeback on some of the larger municipal councils, as well as female trade unionist Soheila Jelodarzadeh's victory among working-class Tehran voters in the Majlis by-election.

This alliance is possibly aimed at securing Ahmedinejad's defeat for re-election in 2009, as well as ensuring that Khamenei is replaced by a like-minded successor (who in all likelihood will be Rafsanjani). As such, it might last at least through the medium term. But whatever the pragmatic accommodations that Khamenei and the reformists have reached, they must be viewed in light of the steady ratcheting-closed of Iranian political space that has occurred since 2001. As Pepe Escobar puts it in the Asia Times, Iran is steadily evolving from a schizophrenic, quasi-democratic theocracy into a clerical autocracy" run by Khamenei and his cronies, and the future looks like one in which electoral politics will matter even less than they do now.

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