Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/400/4552

From The Socialist newspaper, 7 July 2005

Iranian elections: Hardliner's victory stuns Western leaders

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, an Islamic conservative and former revolutionary guard, has been elected president of Iran. Amid bitter allegations of ballot rigging by his rivals, he won a decisive 62% to 36% victory over Rafsanjani in the second-round run-off, on a turnout of 60%.

Lynn Walsh

Ahmadinejad's triumph stunned most western leaders, who expected - and hoped - that the 'pragmatic' former two-term president, Rafsanjani, would win. European leaders are alarmed by the prospect of sharpened conflict with Iran over its nuclear policy and role in the Middle East - especially as the Bush regime appears to welcome the election of a hardliner as a new excuse for confrontation with the Tehran regime.

The new president's threat to tighten state control of Iran's massive petroleum industry, moreover, sent a shock wave around global financial markets - especially as oil was already topping $60 a barrel.

Reformists routed

In the first round on 17 June, there were seven candidates, all vetted and approved by the clerical establishment.

Reformist candidates, like Mehdi Karrubi (17.3%) and Mostafa Moin (13.8%), made a weak showing. This reflected deep disenchantment with the reformist government of the previous president, Khatami, who failed pathetically to carry out his promises. There was some liberalisation on dress code and social issues, but as much from pressure from women and young people as Khatami's measures.

His free-market liberalisation policies failed to satisfy business and the middle class, while life for most people worsened, with around 30% unemployment and growing poverty. Khatami was not prepared to challenge the clerical rulers, Khamenei and the Guardians' Council, and was terrified of mobilising rebellious youth to force through radical change.

So the second-round run off on 24 June was between the 'pragmatic' conservative, Rafsanjani (first round: 21%), trying to pose as a reformer, and the religious hard-liner, Ahmaninejad (19.5%).

Rafsanjani - corrupt

Most western leaders - but not Bush - wanted Rafsanjani because they calculated he would move towards an accommodation with the western powers and open up Iran's economy to the multinationals. A 'moderniser', he favours privatisation and neo-liberal policies.

Western commentators, however, completely failed to see just how discredited he has become. Most Iranians see Rafsanjani as an opportunist Khomeini follower who, as president from 1889-97, is a pillar of the ruling elite. His recent attempt to steal the reformists' clothes was not convincing.

Most damning, Rafsanjani has accumulated vast personal wealth from his business interests and is seen as thoroughly corrupt. His last-minute effort to bribe the electorate with promises of share handouts from privatised utilities didn't work.

Populist appeal

Paradoxically, Ahmadinejad was widely perceived to be the only candidate standing in opposition to the increasingly discredited clerical regime, despite his long-standing connexions with the Khomeini-Khamenei religious establishment.

Undoubtedly, he played down his well-known religious-conservative views. He attacked the corruption of Rafsanjani and other leading figures of the post-1979 political hierarchy. Above all, Ahmadinejad highlighted his call for a crack-down on foreign companies and to give preference to domestic firms in the oil industry. "I will cut the hands off the mafias of powers and factions who have a grasp on our oil, I stake my life on this. People must see their share of oil money in the daily lives."

He retreated from his earlier threat to close Tehran's 'ungodly' stock exchange, but promised to cut interest rates and give the poor large holdings in state companies.

This populist message undoubtedly had a powerful effect on workers, small traders, rural poor and young people.

A change of direction?

Will Ahmadinejad's victory mean a sharp change in direction for Tehran, with populist economic policies at home and sharper confrontation with the US and other imperialist powers? Or is his populist appeal merely electoral demagogy?

In his first press conference, the new president took a tough line - but then tried to tone it down. Iran would continue with its nuclear energy programme - but would continue negotiations with European leaders. Iran didn't need relations with the US - but he would talk to Washington if they stated their policies transparently. "In domestic policy, moderation will be the policy of the government."

"He tempered his answers with conciliatory phrases, as if to present a reassuring face to the world and the nation," commented the New York Times (27 June). "His pattern ... was to first take a tough line, then quickly follow up with a modest offer of compromise."

Ahmadinejad is playing a dangerous game. He is appealing to the poor masses, deeply discontented with the clerical regime, while at the same time trying to act as spokesman for the regime.

The regime has reached a dead end. It has an economic crisis at home, despite enormous oil reserves. Grappling with domestic problems, the regime, under Rafsanjani and Khamenei, has tried to manoeuvre out of the isolation resulting from the 1979 revolution. Ahmadinejad's 'conciliatory' tone reflects pressure from the top to continue this policy.

The ayatollahs, moreover, have accepted steps towards privatisation, including in the oil industry, a retreat from the Khomeini's regime's position after 1979 - and now opposed by Ahmadinejad.

With the presidency in the hands of a hard-line conservative, the clerical leadership now controls all branches of government - the supreme Islamic authority, the clerical judiciary, and the parliamentary leadership. They will be forced to take responsibility for the state of the country, no longer able to hide behind a reformist presidency.

How much independent power will Ahmadinejad have? State power is still in the hands of Khamenei and the Council of Guardians, who control the army, police and the rest of the state machine, including the clerical judiciary. The history of previous presidents, Rafsanjani and Khatami, suggests that Ahmadinejad will not have much room for political manoeuvre within the existing structures.

Growing problems at home and abroad, however, have led to factional divisions within the regime.

Will internal differences give the new president more scope for populist economic policies and a nationalist confrontation with US imperialism? Is it possible that he will have the audacity to move towards distributing oil profits to the toiling people, following a similar path to Chavez in Venezuela? That would arouse enormous mass support, opening up a sharp class polarisation in society. Such a turn in Iran would have a dramatic effect on the whole Middle East.

But it's early days

The new president has already promised a lot. Today, Iran is more than ever like a pressure cooker that is ready to blow. Unless Ahmadinejad delivers on his promises, there will be a massive movement against the clerical regime, and the younger generation especially (65% of the population are under 25) will seek sweeping social changes in favour of workers and the poor.

Background material on the 1978-79 Iranian revolution see:

"A revolution stolen from the working class" by Robin Clapp, June 2003. Available on www.socialistparty.org.uk

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 7 July 2005:

Organise to make capitalism history

Millions demand an end to poverty

"We need to change the system"

Climate change: Big business writes agenda for Bush

Don't scrap our school!

Worldwide attack on higher education

Pride 2005

Block Bush in the streets!

Workers bring Melbourne to a halt

Iranian hardliner's victory stuns Western leaders

International solidarity - more than a slogan

Heathrow workers fight pay and job cuts

National rail strike looms

TGWU conference: Building a fighting union


 

Home   |   The Socialist 7 July 2005   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Iran:

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Iran in turmoil

triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Iran in turmoil

triangleMovement challenges Iranian regime

triangleManchester Socialist Party: The protests in Iran

triangleHackney Socialist Party: Iran in turmoil

Elections:

trianglePCS union 2018 elections - nominate the left slate for a continued fighting leadership

triangleTrade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference

triangleCatalan elections: PP humiliated

triangleHackney Socialist Party: The May 2018 local elections

Ahmadinejad:

triangleNovember 24: International protests against executions and to support political prisoners in Iran

triangleRegion-wide revolution of the Arab people

triangleWhere now for the Iranian revolution?

Oil:

triangleMovement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangleKurdish referendum declared illegal

Revolution:

triangleSalford Socialist Party: The Russian revolution betrayed

International

International

17/1/18

Hong Kong

Stop repression in Hong Kong and China

17/1/18

Tunisia

Tunisia: explosion of protests against government austerity

10/1/18

Iran

Movement challenges Iranian regime

10/1/18

Appeal

Appeal from Iranian independent unions

10/1/18

Sweden

Sweden: School strike against deportations

3/1/18

Catalonia

Catalan elections: PP humiliated

13/12/17

Israel

Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian conflict

13/12/17

CWI

A world in crisis, ripe for revolution

6/12/17

US

Trump's tax plan: Robin Hood in reverse

6/12/17

Ireland

Irish capitalist state: rotten to the core

6/12/17

Women

Fighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle

22/11/17

US

Trump's tax attacks

22/11/17

Australia

Australia: massive yes vote for marriage equality

21/11/17

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Mugabe gone - but his regime remains in power

15/11/17

Minneapolis

USA: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

triangleMore International articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle17 Jan Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

triangle17 Jan NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

triangle17 Jan We must fight all council cuts!

triangle16 Jan Home care workers to strike

triangle15 Jan Carillion crisis: Demand action to save jobs and services

triangle12 Jan Outrage against 'monster block' plan

triangle12 Jan Mini-strike wave continues and intensifies

More ...

triangle23 Jan Bristol North Socialist Party: 'You can't have capitalism without racism' - was Malcolm X correct?

triangle23 Jan Cardiff West Socialist Party: How the Poll Tax was beaten

triangle24 Jan Caerphilly Socialist Party: The Carillion scandal

triangle24 Jan Cardiff Central Socialist Party: Carillion collapse - Watershed moment for public services

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2