President-Elect Wants Modern, Islamic Iran

President-Elect Wants Modern, Islamic Iran (AP)

The winner of Iran’s presidential election, whose landslide victory dealt a setback to reformers, said Saturday he seeks to make his country a “modern, advanced, powerful, and Islamic” model for the world. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s taped statement, broadcast on state-run radio, appeared aimed at easing worries that his ultraconservative views would clash with Iran’s attempts to expand its economy and international ties. Ahmadinejad, however, made no mention of any new policies regarding the social reforms opposed by some of his supporters. “Let’s convert competition to friendship. We are all a nation and a big family,” he said in apparent reference to the rifts between liberals and hard-liners in Iran that deepened in the campaign for Friday’s runoff election. “My mission is creating a role model of a modern, advanced, powerful and Islamic society,” he said in the short message broadcast shortly after the announcement of final results sealed his stunning defeat of moderate statesman Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The results, announced on state television, gave Ahmadinejad, currently Tehran’s mayor, 61.6 percent of the vote over Rafsanjani’s 35.9 percent. The rest of the ballots were deemed invalid.
Nearly 28 million ballots were cast, or more than 59 percent of Iran’s approximately 47 million eligible voters. In last week’s election, the turnout was close to 63 percent.

The victory gives conservatives control of Iran’s two highest elected offices — the presidency and parliament — enabling the non-elected theocracy to rule with a freer hand. Real power in Iran lies with the country’s clerics and their supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who can overrule elected officials. But reformers, who lost parliament in elections last year, had been hoping to retain some hand in government to preserve the greater social freedoms they’ve been able to win, such as looser dress codes, more mixing between the sexes and openings to the West.

Ahmadinejad’s claims to represent modernization strike me about as credible as his claims to victory, given that his second place finish in the first ballot was fixed.

Update: Ed Morrissey is skeptical, too. He thinks the mullahs have miscalculated:

With the democracy movements flourishing but willing in some part to support a character like Rafsanjani against Ahmadinejad, it would have given the mullahs the opportunity to co-opt the movement, at least to some degree. Now, however, the mullahs have clearly told these people that they will never have any hope of access to the political system. What options do the students and other pro-democracy activists have now within the system? All this will do will convince the most active that any change will require action outside of the current Iranian political system.

The mullahs fear dissension more than anything else. Unfortunately for them, they have chosen the course that almost guarantees a revolution, and probably sooner rather than later.

Could well be. It makes little sense to rig sham elections.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.