Sunday, June 14, 2009

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.

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009


(1) = The Nation 14 Jun 2009 ‘Ahmadi bye bye?’,

(2) = ABC News 14 Jun 2008 ‘'Dangerous charade': Iran sparks international concern’,

(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’,

(7) = BBC News 14 Jun 2009 ‘Crowds gather for Ahmadinejad victory rally’,

(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,>

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009


Shoe said...

Iran cannot elect any form of genuine representatives until they elect an Assembly of Experts that is reformist. Only the Experts can influence the Supreme Leader who in turn has total control over most state bodies including the Council of Guardians and the judiciary. Until these structures themselves change there is little hope of reform.

However what is most concerning is that the demographic of the country is hugely skewed towards the under 30s, who are not happy at the oppressive restraint in which they are expected to live. Its strongly possible that they might end up openly revolting against the current leadership.

It would be indeed ironic if the country which managed to defend itself against Iraqui agression in the form of a "human wave" could find itself challenged by a new human wave of young disaffection.

calgacus said...

Good point Laura. In ordinary circumstances i'm sure you'd be right - but if these protests lead to another revolution like the 1979 one against the Shah then the formal structures won't make much difference. The questions are: will it result in a peaceful revolution or a massacre or (as in 1979) a massacre leading to a revolution; and will the revolution by hijacked by one faction as it was in 1979 or will it lead to democracy?

All the best,

calgacus said...

Also there's an interesting article in the Guardian which says that one of the other candidates in the election - a former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard - Mohsen Rezai - has made a formal complaint about election rigging too; and Rafsanjani, the head of the Assembly of Experts, which can appoint and remove Supreme Leaders, is ordering an investigation too . So Khameini could go and there could be some democratisation with the Supreme Leader losing powers to elected officials yet.