Friday, September 13, 2013

Iran: A New Direction

Some people are optimistic. To quote:
In 2013, nearly a quarter century after Rafsanjani's first election to the presidency—literally a lifetime in a country where two-thirds of the population is below the age of 30—the possibility of his return to the office loomed large as the latest ballot approached. He had already served two terms, from 1989 to 1997, and had sought a third in 2005, in a tight race against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then mayor of Tehran. He lost that contest in a run-off, a defeat that stung the establishment and catapulted the little-known Ahmadinejad into the limelight. Ahmadinejad's presidency reversed the trajectory of Iran's post-war path of moderation, and put the revolution back on a collision course with the international community.

This time around, after months of public vacillation, Rafsanjani arrived to register his candidacy at the last possible moment, creating a perfectly orchestrated election surprise. His dramatic bid captivated an Iranian political establishment that had been in a state of suspended animation for four years, ever since the massive street protests that erupted after Ahmadinejad's dubious 2009 reelection. Not that Rafsanjani's candidacy was universally welcomed. Over the years, the disappointments of his tenure and his reputation for opportunism and corruption had eroded public support, perhaps accounting for the failure of his last two campaigns (a 2000 bid for the parliament as well as the 2005 presidential race). But he remains a heavyweight. And after the havoc wrought by Ahmadinejad, the prospective candidacy of a politician still considered a man of action and substance buoyed hopes for a better future.
Iranian elections adhere to an idiosyncratic set of procedures. While anyone can toss a hat into the ring, a clerical oversight body—the Council of Guardians—determines who is permitted to run. The eligibility criteria are vague enough to enable the regime to cull all but a few hand-picked insiders. In a bizarre turn of events, the Guardians rejected Rafsanjani's bid for another go at the office he had held for eight years. However absurd the Islamic Republic's vetting process has been in the past—and more than two dozen elections over the course of 34 years have provided abundant fodder for ridicule—the ruling that one of the regime's founders was unfit to run for the presidency carried the farce to a new level. (Read more.)

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