16 June 2013
The Iranian Election: how did that happen?
In the Islamic Republic of Iran the Guardian Council and the Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Khamenei, have a veto over who can run for elected office. They have less control over who can vote. The religious leadership can try to filter out "moderates" or "reformers," but to the extent that elections are genuinely contested, one or more of the candidates vetted by the leadership is bound to play to "moderate" voters. Apparently, that's how Hassan Rouhani (transliterations from Farsi vary) won the presidential election in the first round with a majority of the popular vote. How "moderate" these results are is hard to say. I haven't read up on the campaign enough to measure how much domestic issues factored into it, or how much of the vote was an implicit criticism of the Supreme Guide. Nevertheless, western media trumpet the triumph of a moderate, though many of the same media had acted as if such a result was impossible after the usual clerical vetting of candidates, a process in which both a former president and the outgoing president's designated protege were barred from running. How much power the incoming "moderate" president will enjoy relative to his religious overseers remains to be seen, but for now the result seems to debunk popular depictions of Iran as an ayatollic tyranny. As long as the leaders give their people some sort of choice, the people still have some power in that country. At least, even after the Guardians had their way with the candidate list, Iranians still had more names to choose from than most Americans allow themselves.