19 May 2017

An election of consequence

Today Iranian voters will deliver their verdict on the reformist administration of President Hassan Rouhani.  Those who vote for him will be defending progress won at great cost.

Iran's theocratic establishment (which acts as a separate branch of government, one which actually outranks the Presidency) has been accustomed to flagrantly rigging elections to get results acceptable to itself.  This happened in 2009, when the hard-line Islamist bigot Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was "re-elected" as President.  But then the Iranian people, who had been chafing under the theocracy's repression for thirty years, finally took to the streets -- producing the largest protest demonstrations in the history of the world, with literally millions of participants.  The regime cracked down brutally and appeared, at the time, to have won.  However, when the next election took place in 2013, fear of triggering another such round of protests made it hold back from interfering too blatantly -- and Rouhani was elected in a landslide.

Despite obstructionism from the powerful religious establishment, Rouhani has accomplished a great deal.  He has increased freedom by reducing censorship and controls over the internet.  The rights and status of women have made impressive (by Islamic Republic standards) progress.  Rouhani negotiated the 2015 deal with the US and other major powers under which Iran renounced its nuclear-weapons program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions (Obama rightly gets a lot of credit for this, but the deal could not have been made without Rouhani's determination to open up to the outside world).  Partly due to the easing of sanctions, Iran's stagnant economy has begun growing and inflation has plummeted, but job growth has still been disappointing -- something which could dampen voter enthusiasm.

That would be unfortunate, since Rouhani's main opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, is a hard-line reactionary -- his party is called the "Combatant Clergy Association", which pretty much tells you what you need to know.  Raisi would reverse at least some of Rouhani's social reforms; he supports the barbaric punishments of SharĂ®'ah law and was involved in the executions of political prisoners in the early years of the Islamist regime.  And he would adopt a more hard-line, confrontational foreign policy.

This election matters to Americans too.  Rouhani is intelligent, cautious, and moderate.  At a time when the US "President" is none of those things, and our militarist-wingnut element is salivating at the prospect of a war with Iran which would be disastrous for both countries, the last thing we need is a belligerent fanatic replacing Rouhani.  Somebody has to play the "adult in the room" role in this relationship.

Update (Saturday morning):  Rouhani wins, with 58.6% of the vote in heavy turnout.


Blogger Les Carpenter said...

By and large the Iranian people are intelligent and industrious. Having known and worked with many Iranian Muslims, all who left Iran because of rightwing Islamic fundamentalism, I can only say your points are spot on.

Trump should be cultivating improved relations with Iran rather than continuing the American right and MIC confrontational agenda.

20 May, 2017 16:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

The current Iranian government is hugely at odds with the real character of the country. It's too bad so many Americans' image of Iran is based on bigots like Ayatollah Khomeini.

21 May, 2017 03:16  

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