Sunday, March 15, 2009

Iran’s Reformists: A Day of High Drama

Early Sunday morning, reports started circulating in Tehran that former president Mohammad Khatami will announce that he will not run in the upcoming presidential elections, leaving Mehdi Karrubi and Hossien Mousavi as the only reformist candidates running against Ahmadinejad , the expected consensus candidate among the hardliners for re-election to another four-year term as president.

The news got more intriguing when at 4pm Tehran’s time (9am EST), Mousavi visited Karrubi at his Tehran residence. Mousavi is said to be ready to drop out of the race, making Karrubi the consensus candidate of the reformist camp.

This week, Karrubi announced an ambitious plan to “re-nationalize” Iran’s oil industry, creating a public trust with all Iranian citizens over the age of 18 having one share. The trust will eventually control the country’s oil and gas revenues.

Karrubi’s proposal closely resembles the plan for creating a national unit trust, with Iranian citizens as its shareholder, proposed in 2005 by this writer and his colleagues. The trust management was proposed to be elected by the public, its shareholders. The trust would control the oil and gas revenues, paying income tax to the government and using the bulk of its revenues on investing in business ventures to create development projects for the country.


Unknown said...

In my opinion Karoubi is less likely to be the reformists' final candidate. I don't know the source of this news but I think Mousavi has not entered the race half-heartedly as Khatami did, he has not broken 20 years of political strike to just walk out and go!
Mousavi a US educated architect is surely a better match up with Obama than Karoubi who is just the reformist twin of Ahmadinejad.

Anonymous said...

This trust proposal is potentially a powerful reform. Right now it seems that many of the semi-autonomous parts of the Iranian government are funded by oil revenues for which there are no clear accounts. A government that is funded by taxes tends to come under closer scrutiny from the citizens who are expected to pony up for it, in contrast to one that is self-funded.

Expect a pushback: some of state agencies were formed in the early years of the Islamic Republic and have never really had to justify themselves to the Majlis. They are not going to want to have to go hat in hand to the people's representatives every year and beg for funding. Controlling the purse strings is crucial to oversight. It won't be implemented on that basis; the reformers would do better to cloak it in populist rhetoric about sharing the national wealth. But the Revolutionary Guards, among others, will see it clearly as an attempt to bring them to heel.

Nader Uskowi said...

Ali, thanks for post. You are making an important observation about Musavi and his intentions. At the end of the day, however, the reformists must have a single candidate, either by choice prior to the first round, or by elimination prior to the second round.

Mousavi might have a tougher time to generate public support, as you have said he's been out of the political limelight for nearly two decades.

Nader Uskowi said...

Anon: I do agree that the national trust fund is a powerful proposal, answering many questions on how best to manage the country’s oil wealth without giving all the revenues to the government of the day to be used on its growing bureaucracy.

I agree that special interests involved in misusing oil revenues will not easily give in to this reform, but the time has come to change the way we use the oil wealth, turning it into an opportunity to develop the country.