Democratic Revolution in Iran? Why Khameini rigged the Presidential election against Mousavi
Rioting in the streets in Tehran has greeted the unlikely claims by the government that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the first round of voting in the Presidential elections with almost two-thirds of the vote, meaning there’ll be no second round. Presidents in Iran have no power and ‘Supreme Leader’ Khameini, like his predecessor Khomeini, wants to keep it that way.
Ahmadinejad’s main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former Iranian Prime Minister (before the ‘Supreme Leader’ Khomeini abolished that post to keep power in his own hands too), said in his election campaign that if elected he would have control of Iran’s police and security forces transferred from the unelected Supreme Leader to the elected President. That will be why Khameini decided to rig this election in favour of Ahmadinejad (1).
Just as the Bush clique rigged the 2000 and 2004 US Presidential elections the ‘Supreme Leader’ and his cronies have rigged the 2009 Iranian Presidential election, but unlike in the US in 2000 they didn’t even have the sense to try to rig it in a barely convincing way, going for a massive rigged majority of votes rather than a narrow majority. Mousavi has called the result “a dangerous charade” (2).
As many Iranian Ayatollahs have pointed out the office of ‘Supreme Leader’ has no basis in the Q’uran, Shia Islam (or any other kind) or Persian or Iranian history. It was purely a device invented by Khomeini to hijack the 1979 dictatorship of the Shah, cracking down on liberals, socialists, communists and environmentalists who had taken part in the revolution. It has no place in any country. As Mousavi says freedom and democracy are not in conflict with Islam – only the current regime is – a regime which violates the constitution it approved (3) – (6).
The fact that the regime has arrested over 100 senior members of the opposition, including the brother of former President Khatami, another reformer, shows that it fears revolution – and , if it keeps rigging elections and crushing the resulting dissent by assassinating it’s Iranian critics and killing unarmed demonstrators and students, as it did in 1999, sooner or later it’s going to be overthrown by one. In practice Khameini is no less of a dictator than the Shah was (7), (8).
However western governments are right to say little on the subject and stay neutral. It was a CIA and MI6 backed coup which overthrew Iran’s last democratically elected government , that of Mohammed Mossadeq, in 1953, after he attempted to nationalise Anglo-Iranian Oil (now BP) when it refused to pay a fairer share of its profits in taxes or increase wages for grossly underpaid Iranian employees. It was the US and western governments who were also the closest allies of the brutal corrupt dictatorship of the Shah installed by that coup, which led to the 1979 revolution (9) – (11).
Almost every government in the world also funded and armed Saddam Hussein ‘s regime during the Iran-Iraq war while it invaded Iran and used poison gas on Iranians and Iraqi Kurds.
So any intervention by western governments, even verbally, will allow the regime to paint all its opponents as agents of foreign powers and backfire badly.
Another problem is that most candidates backing democratic reforms also back free trade – which is not in the interests of many poor Iranians. However democratic reforms and and end to political violence, torture, jail without trial and killings by the regime are necessary for any kind of progress and necessary in themselves (12), (13).
Sooner or later though, if Khameini doesn’t allow power to be transferred to the elected President and parliament, the theocrats will face a reckoning like the one the Shah faced – and unlike him they may find it hard to escape into exile in time to avoid the Iranian peoples’ anger if they crush dissent by killings again. They would be best advised to allow a peaceful transition to democracy while they still can instead.
(1) = The Nation 14 Jun 2009 ‘Ahmadi bye bye?’, http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Columns/11-Jun-2009/Ahmadi-byebye
(2) = ABC News 14 Jun 2008 ‘'Dangerous charade': Iran sparks international concern’,http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/06/14/2597534.htm
(3) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004),‘The Persian Puzzle’, Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition – chapter8, pages 144 - 146
(4) =Hiro, Dilip (2005) ‘The Iranian Labyrinth’, Nation Books, NY, 2005, chapter 6, pages159-162; Ayatollah Montazeri , chosen by Iran’s religious scholars to succeed Khomeini, was vetoed as a choice by Khomeini for questioning Khomeini’s velayat e-faqih or ‘rule of the jurisprudent’ ideology and the excessive powers of the office of Supreme Leader. Grand Ayatollah Shariatmadari also criticised the powers Khomeini gave himself.
(5) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran', Times Books , New York, 2006 ; Chapter2, pages 46-50
(6) = Washington Post 07 Apr 2009 ‘Ahmadinejad Rival Calls For Increased Freedoms’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/06/AR2009040603484.html
(7) = BBC News 14 Jun 2009 ‘Crowds gather for Ahmadinejad victory rally’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8099501.stm
(8) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition , Chapter 12, especially pages 330-336
(9) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004),’The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 27-140
(10) = Curtis, Mark (1995), ‘The Ambiguities of Power : British Foreign Policy since 1945', Zed Books, London & New York, 1995 paperback edition; pages 87-96
(11) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘’Hidden Iran', Times Books , New York, 2006 - pages 83-96
(12) = Amnesty International 2009 world report – Iran,
(13) = Human Rights Watch 2009 world report – Iran,