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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La présidentielle la plus importante depuis la Révolution islamique

by Pierre Barbancey

The Most Important Presidential Election since the Islamic Revolution

Translated Thursday 18 June 2009, by Henry Crapo

Iran. The election takes place today [1] in a new national and international context. Ahmadinejad must face three opposition candidates. Mir Hossein Moussavi could create a surprise.

The presidential election which takes place in Iran is exceptional in many ways. And here in Iran, nobody is dupe. To the point that they say this is the most important election since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In the streets of Teheran, we’ve rarely seen this. Even in 1997, when the candidature of Mohammed Khatami had aroused the excitement of the masses, there was not such a confrontation. On the Avenue Vasi Asr, which traverses the capital from north to south, that is, from the bourgeois districts to those of the lumpen proletariat, from neighborhoods where women wear their head scarves very high on their heads, scarves frequently with the logos of Yves Saint Laurent of Gucci, to neighborhoods where women are tightly wrapped in their black tchadors, it is as if a fuse has been lit, and burns bright. Some support the incumbent, Ahmadinejad. This is mostly in the south. Others back Mir Hossein Moussavi. This is mostly in the north. Between the two districts, some partisans of Mehdi Karoubi (once the reform president of Parliament). The four musketeers of the presidential election. Four men. 42 women presented their candidature but were crossed off the list with a stroke of the pen by the Council of guardians of the revolution, which chose the four pretendants, all members of the inner circle. That is not to say that they are identical. They represent the main political tendencies of the islamic regime.

Who is who? Who stands for what?

This is the main difficulty with the ballot. Who is who? Who stands for what? As Thierry Coville (read the interview) emphasizes, whatever happens, the fundamental options for the state remain the same. But the last four years of Ahmadinejad were really hard, even for the electoral base recruited from among the poorest members of the population in 2005, who saw him as an alternative to a government more representative of the bazar and the big merchants, like Rafsandjani. Inflation didn’t stop rising and buying power diminished. For the women, who once thought themselves to be in a position really to emancipate themselves, Ahmadinejad remobilized his morality police (see this article). The reformers have shown themselves incapable the political will to carry through with their project. Perhaps they realize that that would mean the implosion of the islamic republic. President Khatami, in any case, never supported the students in their fight, and even gave cover to the repression orchestrated by the sinister pasdarans [2].

Despite this, a new hope is born. It seems to crystallize around the figure of Moussavi. A former prime minister from the period of the Iran-Iraq war, hand-picked by Khomeni at a time when Ali Khamenei was president of the republic, and not yet supreme guide, that is, true Number 1 of the nation. Mohammed Khatami calls for the election of Moussavi. "Don’t miss this chance. All of you, come vote. By marking the name of Mir Hossein Moussavi on your ballot, you accomplish your duty to the islamic revolution, and determine your destiny," he said to thousands of youth assembled in the Liberty (Azadi) stadium in Teheran.

Hachemi Rafsandjani, defeated candidate in 2005, but omnipresent on the political scene — He presides, in particular, the Assembly of experts charged with naming the supreme guide, and is member of the Council for discernment, charged with verifying the conformity of laws — is also backing the candidate Moussavi.

The dialogue remains wide open

The new situation also involves the new president in the White House. An American president who has let drop the desire to banish Iran from world politics, an attitude that could only serve the interests of Ahmadinejad, sending a message to the Iranian people on the occasion of their new year celebration. He speaks of dialog instead of confrontation. Moussavi is ready to discuss the Iranian nuclear matter with the great powers. But he adds that Iran will continue its nuclear activities. "We do not renounce our right to nuclear technology. What we will negotiate is the manner in which we should proceed in order to guarantee that our nuclear program will not be converted into a military program," he explained. So everything is in the open. The main elements missing are the actors of the Iranian social movement. One speaks seldom of them. The leaders of these movements are often in prison. "Let’s hope that under the new government we won’t have political prisoners, and that the end of discrimination against women will be more than just a hope," said Zahra Rahnavard, Moussavi’s wife. That, to be sure, would be a real change.

[1Translator’s note. Though this article is already "dated", having appeared almost a week ago, it is valuable in the perspective it provides, and has a special piquant flavor, in that the reporter is still in doubt as to the outcome, which led to the officially declared victory of the incumbent Ahmadinejad, now challenged by the supporters of his opponent, Moussavi. More current articles on the challenged election will follow.

[2Guardians of the islamic revolution.

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