Boston Globe – GLOBE EDITORIAL: The election of Iran’s new president, Tehran’s Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, delivers to the reactionary forces around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei the last power node that had been in the hands of reformists. Now that reformists have been excised from the Parliament, city councils, and the presidency, there is no longer any institutional opposition to Khamenei and his loyalists.
THE ELECTION of Iran’s new president, Tehran’s Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, delivers to the reactionary forces around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei the last power node that had been in the hands of reformists. Now that reformists have been excised from the Parliament, city councils, and the presidency, there is no longer any institutional opposition to Khamenei and his loyalists.
Nonetheless, there have been signs that the hard-liners’ pursuit of a power monopoly is aggravating deep schisms within the ruling establishment. Ultimate establishment figures such as former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who lost to Ahmadinejad in the second round, and Mehdi Karroubi, the departing speaker of Parliament, openly castigated Khamenei’s ultraconservative minions for engineering voting fraud in the first round of elections, which enabled Ahmadinejad to become Rafsanjani’s opponent in the runoff. After his humiliating defeat in Friday’s second round, Rafsanjani complained that ”all the means of the regime were used in an organized and illegal way to intervene in the election.” He implied that Khamenei had allowed public funds to be used to spread damaging stories of the great wealth Rafsanjani had acquired for himself and his family and to buy votes or scare voters into voting for Ahmadinejad.
This is not merely a matter of Rafsanjani being a sore loser. Rather, it suggests a syndrome common to authoritarian regimes that cannot cope with internal and external crises and, instead of opening up and exploring new directions, purge their ranks of all reformers or advocates of pragmatism.
Rafsanjani is hardly a dissident. However, he has hinted at the need to privatize Iran’s economy — much of which is controlled by religious foundations — and to attract foreign investment, trade, and technology. He also intimated that he could strike a deal with the Europeans and Americans on Iran’s nuclear program and improve, or even normalize, relations with the United States.
If the hard-liners, with all the levers of power in their hands, refuse to explore such new departures, they will bear responsibility for the consequences. Khamenei and Ahmadinejab need to create a million jobs a year for young Iranians entering the workforce. They can hardly cope with that domestic crisis by purging reformers and enforcing purist social codes. And they can’t ensure stability by causing their neighbors to fear a renewed drive to export Iran’s Islamic Revolution or by persisting in pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran needs its own version of glasnost and perestroika. The last thing Iranians need is a return to the zealotry of the early days of Ayatollah Khomeini’s seizure of power.