It seems predicting the outcome of the presidential elections in Iran is of vital importance for politicians and journalists, as significant as the World Cup tournament is for footballers.
The election, which took place on Friday, looks dreary and frozen. As opinion polls confirm, voter turnout did not exceed 55%, contrary to the previous elections when women and young people rushed in their droves to cast their vote for reformist candidate Mohammed Khatami. They had hope the new President will lead Iran and transform the Islamic Republic from revolution to a state and from empty slogans to a reality of food, medicine, and freedom for everyone.
This time around, it is obvious that the majority of Iranians have lost confidence in both the reformist and conservative camps. This explains the success of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at the ballot box. The former President, standing for a third term, made it clear, in his campaign, that he planned to establish better relations with the United States of America, a demand of a large potion of Iranians. He also declared his intention of opening up the Islamic Republic to the West and its neighbors, another desire of his countrymen. Interestingly, Rafsanjani was courageous enough to publicly support Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz’s peace initiative for the Middle East . He also bluntly declared that Hizbullah should be disarmed after the end of the Israeli occupation and turned into a political force. Perhaps Rafsanjani’s appearance without a turban in public, an impossible situation until recently, was the clearest indication yet of the candidate distancing himself form the establishment.
These confrontational messages Rafsanjani gave to observers at home and abroad raise an important question: Are we witnessing the rise of an Iranian Michael Gorbatchev? Is this a man who cautiously repeats revolutionary slogans while enthusiastically holding the banners of comprehensive change and reform?
Or perhaps, is it the case that Rafsanjani has understood, all too well, the situation in Iran , and is playing his cards right? Does he realize that Iranians no longer trust either the reformist or conservative camp? Is he aware that a third way is needed to carry the country forward where realism would take over slogans and mottos of the Islamic Revolution? If this Iranian Gorbatchev is elected and succeeds in following this course, he might be able to transform Iran , without bloodshed. The country, in this scenario, would embrace the world. The revolution would, then, come to end, just as the Bolshevik revolution ended in Russia , with no more than a few whispers!