UPDATES

Iran election 2012: Khamenei vs Ahmadinejad

Mar 7, 2012 | Sharyn Mittelman

Iran election 2012: Khamenei vs Ahmadinejad
news_item/Khamenei.jpg

 

Amid Iran’s nuclear standoff and reports of its human rights abuses, the Iranian Parliamentary elections on March 2 garnered suprisingly little outside interest.

This was because the whole event was simply a contest amongst various strains of extremists – with reformists largely excluded from taking part, or boycotting. It was essentially a battle between supporters of Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The election results are in and it seems Ahmadinejad lost the battle and now may be reduced to being a ‘lame duck’ President.

The showdown follows two years of a public rift between the leaders. Khamenei believes that Ahmadinejad challenged his authority on government affairs including foreign policy and intelligence. The rift became apparent in April when Ahmadinejad publicly opposed Khamenei’s order to reinstate the intelligence minister, who had been dismissed by Ahmadinejad. The President then boycotted government meetings for more than a week in protest. In response Khamenei threatened to get rid of the position of President and replace it with ‘Prime Minister’ so that the Supreme Leader can retain his control over all Iranian affairs. He also had Ahmadinejad allies arrested and purged.

The election results will now further cement Khamenei’s power, as his supporters won over 75% of seats in the election. The United Principlist Front, a coalition of Khamenei supporters, took some 88 seats in the 290-seat parliament. The Front for the Stability of the Islamic Revolution, a parliamentary group led by hard-line cleric Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, considered to be Ahmadinejad’s spiritual adviser, took approximately 44 seats.

The President may spend the rest of his term merely trying to survive it. Ahmadinejad is likely to be summoned to an unprecedented hearing in the parliament to answer questions regarding his handling of the economy. Critics argue that Ahmadinejad inflicted higher inflation on Iranians by cutting food and fuel subsidies, and replacing them with cash handouts of around US$38 a month per person. Depending on his answers, the parliament could even seek impeachment.

In addition, on March 4, Iran’s Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejehi announced that the second round of the trial for a $2.6 billion embezzlement scandal will take place next week. Among those linked to the scandal and may be facing charges are senior Ahmadinejad allies including his Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie.

According to the Iranian Interior Ministry the election turnout was 64 percent, which pleased the government. However, given that the previous parliamentary election turnout was just above 50 percent, Opposition figures have questioned the figure especially given that many reformists boycotted the election.

Implications of the election?

The outcome of the election is unlikely to impact Iran’s foreign policy given that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad both adopted a confrontational stance towards the West, and promoted Iran’s nuclear program. However, it has strengthened Khamenei’s grip on power.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said:

“Khamenei has effectively rendered what was already a rubber stamp parliament into an iron stamp parliament.”

Babak Dehghanpisheh writes in Time:

“The victory in the parliamentary vote that weakens Ahmadinejad, combined with the repression that has sidelined the opposition Green Movement, allows Khamenei to dismiss any talk of internal political strife and claim that Iran is united in the face of Western sanctions and Israeli military threats.”

The Associated Press reported:

“The results also greatly reduce Ahmadinejad’s leverage to have a protege clear the ruling clerics’ election vetting process and become a candidate to succeed him in mid-2013. It now seems likely that only staunch Khamenei loyalists could be in the running. ‘It appears that the era of `Ahmadinejadism’ in Iran’s political history is gradually coming to an end,’ said prominent Tehran-based political analyst Davoud Hermidas Bavand. What that means is a much bigger comfort zone for the ruling system in a volatile time.”

Where were the reformists?

The liberals and reformists that led the protests following the 2009 Presidential election were absent from the parliamentary ballots following relentless crackdowns and arrests. Few if any reformist candidates ran for parliament. Its leaders are now under house arrest or jailed and its access to media has been closed off.

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami considered by some to be the “spiritual leader of the reformist movement” demanded that political prisoners be freed and those under house arrest be released as a precondition for his movement’s participation. Since Khatami’s call was ignored, Ali Mohammad Gharibani, head of the Reformist Front Coordination Council, reportedly said:

“Despite efforts…to create an appropriate election climate, unfortunately more restrictions have been imposed. Therefore, the council has decided that it won’t issue any election list and won’t support anyone.”

However, Khatami who had urged Iranians not to vote, did end up voting on March 2.

Reformist candidates would also struggle to be selected in the elections because all candidates are vetted by the Guardian Council. Of those signed up to register more than 2,000 were rejected – including 33 sitting members of parliament.

The Iranian elections did highlight two key issues relevant to understanding the nuclear standoff – that the reformist movements in Iran are currently in abeyance and that the West lost a great opportunity in not supporting the protestors in 2009, and that as suspected, real power in Iran rests not with the President, but with the Supreme Leader and his Revolutionary Guard.

Sharyn Mittelman

 

Tags:

RELATED ARTICLES


(Photo: Shutterstock)

The politics of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Nov 22, 2022 | Update
Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran's most famous actresses, appearing publicly without her headscarf and holding a sign with the Kurdish words for "Women, Life, Freedom". Despite the regime's bloody repression, Alidoosti has vowed to remain in her homeland "at any price" and support the families of those killed or arrested in the protest crackdown  (Photo: Instagram)

Iran’s protest wave continues 

Nov 11, 2022 | Update
8c2ebfa2 C3e1 A33a 9cdc 07bd16e00b2f

After election win, Netanyahu set to be Israeli PM again

Nov 4, 2022 | Update
Israelis are going to the polls yet again on Nov. 1, the fifth Israeli election in less than four years. Will this vote break the political deadlock? (Image: Flickr, IDF)

Israel goes to the polls – again

Oct 28, 2022 | Update
The complex Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary dispute appears to have been settled after many years of negotiations, with Israel accepting the green line in the above diagram, except within five kilometres of the coast (This map was originally published on the MEES website).

Israel-Lebanon maritime border agreement

Oct 13, 2022 | Update
A screenshot from a video posted on Sept. 17 shows an injured protester in Saqqez, Iran, being rushed to a medical facility. (Video: Twitter)

Insights into Iran’s protest movement

Oct 7, 2022 | Update

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

Image: Twitter

Apparent mass amnesia at Brighton Secondary College hearing

Left to Right: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

The Russo-Iranian alliance comes to Europe

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi (source: Dean_Calma)

UN nuclear watchdog head’s shocking statement on Iran

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The World Cup and Qatar’s Hypocrisy

Image: Twitter

New Government will confront terror wave 

Image: Twitter

Apparent mass amnesia at Brighton Secondary College hearing

Left to Right: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

The Russo-Iranian alliance comes to Europe

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi (source: Dean_Calma)

UN nuclear watchdog head’s shocking statement on Iran

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The World Cup and Qatar’s Hypocrisy

Image: Twitter

New Government will confront terror wave 

SORT BY TOPICS