If is often said in this website that Islamic Republic cannot be reformed and the Islamic Constitution strictly prohibits reform of its most archaic foundations. However, that’s not what has been happening since the inception of the Islamic Republic. In fact, all those who are staunchly opposed to Reformists had never heard or even used the word “Reform” until people started lining up behind them.
The question is not whether Islamic Republic is reformable or what Reformists have or haven’t done in the past. The question is why Iranians turn to reform and Reformists every few years or so? Why? Why do Iranians actually want reforms? After the 2009 elections and its aftermath many are disenfranchised with Reformists and would now like more of a “regime change” than reforms but how and where would they show these desires?
Iranians turn to Reformists during election cycles because there are no other alternatives, at least no other alternatives that they could openly support in Iran. At the same time they don’t want to remain silent until a legitimate alternative (read the hidden Imam Mahdi ;-) shows up so they could rally behind him. If they wait too long they’ll become another 40 year old virgin and who wants that!
So what do they do, they talk and argue all their frustrations, disappointments, corruptions, abuse of power, gender apartheid and human rights violations while “supporting” a Reformist candidate. That is what they have been doing and what happened in 2009 and this while all other ‘alternatives’ refused to even see such tendencies or acknowledge it only to laugh it off as futile. Don’t get me wrong there are alternatives, they definitely are, but not in any format that can garner any legitimate and actionable support. All the good ones have left, Elvis has left the building!
Iranians came to vote en masse in 2009 to end Ahmadi’s rein during which all kinds of restrictions that were fought against successfully in the past were brought back and Iran was becoming more and more of a pariah in the world. I believe the argument that by eliminating Reformists and supporting Ahmadi, Iranians will become more frustrated and against the regime so the revolution will be “accelerated” is flawed because the same argument is used to say that Shah should’ve mowed down Khomeini and his followers to “stop” the revolution. Would revolution have been “accelerated” if Shah had mowed down the opposition any further?
With the experience of Arab Spring in front of Iranians it remains to be seen how the people (note I said how the people not “Reformists”) will channel their fighting spirit this time around. The Reformists themselves have not said what they want to do although their candidates, if any, are being disqualified for the current parliamentary election. Will the 2013 elections be a non-event? This year’s election seems to be a non-event.
Khamenei and company want to do away with Presidential elections altogether to deny Iranians a vehicle to channel their emotions. They believe Iranians are less involved and passionate about parliamentary elections so this would be a good way to take away people’s chance to show emotions.
Many of the political parties or newspapers that are established in Iran in order to participate in elections have very short shelf lives once they gather support and interest and are often shut down by the regime rather quickly within few months or a year or two max. Karoubi’s party lived for about 4 or 5 years before it was shut down and Mousavi’s party was shut down in about two years.
Iranian people are moved by rather smaller steps. In fact, regime’s ‘cash subsidies’ is a response in trying to show small steps where Iranians can look to in terms of tangible “show” of distribution of wealth where 80% of the country’s revenue is through oil. At the same time this cash subsidy is regime’s achilles heel and it’s wrong on so many levels. Where would the regime go from here? Gold and foreign exchange currency (and inflation) are rapidly increasing which means people do not believe in or trust regime’s economic policies and the sanctions are having major impact and most importantly the prospect of a looming war is ever more present.
Photo caption: Motorcycle "taxis" in Baharestan median in downtown/south/old Tehran waiting for customers who are walking around. Have you used one while in Tehran?!
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