Many around the world are wondering why the hardliners in Iran are so reluctant to heed the call of the electorate for a rerun of the June 12 presidential election or a national referendum to confirm its outcome, if their favorite candidate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, actually won by a landslide.
After all, a revote or a referendum could at once resolve the post-election dispute and secure the regime the sort of national and international legitimacy it presently lacks.
The reason is clear: they do not want the truth to come out, for the truth will vindicate the opposition and, as a result, consign the fraudsters to the dustbin of history .
The above being the case, the question arises as to what the world can expect to happen next in Iran should the hardliners continue to reject the opposition’s call for a revote or a national referendum on the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election as president.
To be sure, the crisis former president and the current head of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, duly acknowledged in his July 17 Friday prayer sermon will, in the short to medium term, further deepen, involve more defections to the reformist camp, and thus turn into an all-out confrontation between the hardliners and the proponents of reform over not only the outcome of the June 12 election, but also the future course of the Islamic Republic.
Articulating what may be called a single reform platform from which to launch a viable movement capable of advancing the cause of reform can be considered an urgent task at this stage of the democratization process, as can the formation of a reformist front composed of organizations and individuals dedicated to the cause of freedom and justice.
In the long term, however, the crisis, if not resolved to the satisfaction of the disgruntled citizenry, who no doubt made up the majority of voters in the June 12 presidential election, can potentially lead to an all-out revolution the outcome of which would certainly be the total demise of the Islamic Republic.
Were the regime to opt, therefore, for survival rather than extinction, it would have to restore, in a timely manner, the public’s trust in the electoral process by resolving the current dispute through either a rerun of the June 12 presidential election or a national referendum on the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s second term in office.
True, this may ultimately cost the hardliners much of their illegitimate power and privilege and force them to behave in a pluralistic manner in all future events of a national character, but the long term alternative would undoubtedly be more nightmarish, since it is truly hard to imagine how the Revolutionary Guard Corps, for example, or its militia wing known as the Basij, can put the genie of change back into the bottle by mere violence of essentially a limited nature .
Here, it is important to realize that the current crisis in Iran is not so much about the outcome of a fraudulent election as it is about a decadent regime that is becoming increasingly authoritarian and thus unbearable to many of its subjects .
Indeed, Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s enormous popularity among Iranian voters in the June 12 presidential election owed much to his pre-election support, during a televised debate with Ahmadinejad, for the civil and human rights of the Iranian citizenry.
Consequently, the international community can expect to witness more manifestations of popular dissent in Iran , as a way of not only maintaining the rare momentum that has been created by the vote fraud, but also containing the authoritarian impulse of the regime.
Let us hope, however, that, in their policy calculations toward the Islamic Republic, the world’s states will not lose sight of the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people by focusing too much on the virtues of realpolitik, since that would surely be a strategic mistake on their part.
Jalal Alavi is a sociologist and political commentator based in Britain .
1. For those who are not content with data coming out of Iran’s Interior Ministry, a great deal of information is now available online regarding the fraudulent nature of the June 12 presidential election. See, for example, the Mousavi camp’s own investigation into the vote fraud (in Persian), which can be found at: http://rouhanioon.com/news/detail.php?ID=666, as well as the following analyses: “Iran’s Rural Vote and Election Fraud”, Agence Global, 17 June 2009, available from: http://www.agenceglobal.com/article.asp?id=2034; “Statistical Tests Suggestive of Fraud in Iran’s Election”, U.S. News & World Report, 14 July 2009, available from: http://www.usnews.com/articles/science/2009/07/14/statistical-tests-suggestive-of-fraud-in-irans-election.html; “Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figure in Iran’s 2009 Presidential Election”, Chatham House and the Institute of Iranian Studies, University of St Andrews, 21 June 2009, available from: http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/14234_iranelection0609.pdf.
2. The massive July 30 protests that marked the end of 40 days of mourning for those killed during post-election demonstrations in Iran clearly attest to the inefficacy of violence as a means of dealing with popular discontent.
3. I would have preferred the use of the term “totalitarian” in describing the current direction of the Iranian regime, but that would not have been very accurate for various reasons outside the scope of this brief essay.