The governmental body acting as Iran’s elections commission, the Guardian Council, today certified the results of the 12 June presidential election, paving the way for a second 4-year term for the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmdinejad. His new term will start in August. Iran’s Supreme Leader had already “certified” the election results.
The turnout in the election was at 80%, one of the highest in the history of Islamic Republic. Normally, a high turnout is seen as an affirmation by the public of the legitimacy of the regime. This month, however, we witnessed the first-hand experience of 80% of the population in a process that soon became tainted. Ahmadinejad and Khamenei won the day, but it is not clear at all if the Islamic Republic came out as winner.
Two factors dominated the upheaval that surrounded the disputed election and the government’s handling of the dispute.
First, the Islamic Republic had to put all the pretensions aside and act ruthlessly, and in the process involving Khamenei directly with the suppression and the bloodshed that followed the election. Millions of very young Iranians, those who have been born and raised under the Islamic Republic, witnessed a different face of their supreme leader and of a system which had always claimed the high moral ground for espousing a moderate and democratic form of Islam. In less than thirty days, the Islamic Republic undid thirty years of image building. People chanting “Death to Dictator” told the story.
The government won the battle by killing and imprisoning the youths, but lost the war to win their hearts and minds. The future leaders of a democratic Iran will come from the ranks of the veterans of the uprising.
If the popular uprising and the social movement born on the streets of Iran constituted one side of the story, the growing, and by now antagonistic, power struggle among the leading figures of the regime constituted the other side of the upheaval, as detrimental to the future of the Islamic Republic. Hence my second point. The system came out never as damaged in its thirty year history.
Rafsanjani’s letter to Khamenei on the eve of the election coupled with firm stands by Mousavi and Karrubi against the government turned big-time loyalists (the current chairman of Assembly of Experts and former president; the former prime minister of the imposed war, the former speaker of Majlis) into opposition. The government seemed eager bringing them on! Again, the battle may have been won, although not as clear as the government wants to believe, but forcing these loyalists into the rank of opposition is loosing the war. And meanwhile, the extent of corruption eating into the very existence of the Islamic Republic became so public like at no times in the thirty years of the government of the downtrodden.
Khamenei and Ahmadinejad need not need to celebrate yet. What they gave up for a second term might come back and haunt them.